2014’s John Wick remains one of the biggest surprises I’ve ever experienced while going to the movies. I went into its premiere at Fantastic Frank with, frankly, less than stellar expectations, and was shocked not by just how much I enjoyed the film but how truly great it was. The film was hailed as an instant classic, and remains one of my favorite actions films of all time. My love for the movie was amplified by the Q&A after the film, in which directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch highlighted their use of practical effects and Keanu Reeves emphasized multiple times how much he enjoyed shooting people in the head. So did we, Keanu. So did we.
By their very nature, sequels promise more of the stuff we loved last time. In John Wick: Chapter 2, the titular hero returns to shoot a lot more people in the head. But while he’s at it, John also breaks more arms, stabs people with knives and other pointy objects, and even runs at least a dozen people over. Yeah, he’s still a bad ass, and the body count is somehow more insane than the last time around.
But the promise of more doesn’t just end with the action. We get to spend more time with characters from the first movie, all the way down to Jimmy, the cop curious to know if John is working again. Everyone that survived the first film is back and (with the exception of John Leguizamo) gifted with more screen time. That means more of Ian McShane’s grandiose Winston and more of Lance Reddick’s badass hotel concierge Charon. Naturally, there are more scenes involving John’s new dog, whom he has yet to gift with a name.
Another thing that made John Wick such a great film was the mythology it created, and the elaboration on the secret world of assassins and its inner workings is perhaps the greatest thing that John Wick 2 pulls off. They add more details, rules, backstory, and layers without any of it feeling excessive and unnecessary, and then populate it with a barrage of awesome new characters. This is a fully realized world with so many exciting possibilities, and I can’t wait to see how they continue to flesh it out.
John Wick is a franchise that I am fully on board for, and I will gladly watch all installments until the end of time. I was thrilled that John Wick: Chapter 2 gave me more the stuff I loved, but at times it felt like it was too much. The opening moments of the film go out of their way to callback lines of dialogue that were really great the first film. They were great because they were unexpected in their genius. Here, we laugh not because of how they’re employed. We laugh because we remember how much we laughed the first time.
Plot-wise, the first two acts of this movie are very similar identical to the entirety of the original John Wick. However, enough new stuff is sprinkled in for good measure that this doesn’t hurt the movie as much as it would in other sequels. The action sequences and fight choreography are terrific, though a rave scene in Rome does feel very familiar. However, the third act takes the film in such an exciting and unexpected direction that by the time the credits rolled I was grinning with glee. John Wick doesn’t just put all his would-be foes to shame. He’s setting a standard for the entire genre. This side of films like The Raid, that’s a tough standard to try and beat.
John Wick doesn’t just put all his would-be foes to shame. He’s setting a standard for the entire genre. This side of films like The Raid, that’s a tough standard to try and beat.