In this next chapter following the 2014 hit, legendary hitman John Wick [Keanu Reeves] is forced back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers.
Unlike the first film, John Wick: Chapter 2 doesn’t break your heart witnessing a dog get killed, as a gutsy motivation plot. Instead, the story takes a less intense route by having our main character forced out of retirement. In order to get out from living a life of an assassin, John struck a deal with a “dangerous man” named Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) for help in handling one last assignment. Now Santino has returned, and expects John to uphold his marker containing a “blood oath” that symbolizes that John would help Santino.
After John refuses to uphold his marker, Santino destroys John’s house, containing old memories of his late-wife. In order for John to get his revenge on Santino, he must first complete uphold his marker, by assassinate Santino’s sister, so that Santino can take her place at the “high table”, a council of high-end crime lords. When John completes the task, he finds himself on the bad end of an open contract for assassins, hired by Santino, to take him out. From there it’s a bloody path for John on his way back to finishing off Santino, including crossing paths with highly respectable, highly trained assassin named Cassian (Common), who also happened to be the longtime bodyguard for Santino’s sister.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is certainly a more complex story than the first film; that further widens the world established, and yet manages to stay within its own set of rules. It’s a film that you’re meant to just go along with and have fun, and therefore the story never gets too confusing. I go into these kinds of movies expecting to see some insane action that made the first film great. John Wick: Chapter 2 turned out to be exactly what I expected. A fun, kick-ass, guns blazing popcorn flick.
The action sequences, featuring the now famous Gun-Fu, is taken to another level. More guns, more knives, and more dead bodies. The creativity going into these action is so incredible. The opening of the movie sees John retrieving his muscle car, and playing a deadly version of bumper cars with bad guys in taxi cabs. The gun fights in Rome are amazing to watch. The fight choreographers continued finding ways to make John execute these headshots, and you never get bored watching. The highlight of the action is when John and Cassian face off. One moment, these two assassins are casually walking parallel, maybe 20-30 feet apart, through a crowded train station in the same direction, while firing their silencers at each other, and yet acting like everything is normal. Then the next moment they’re fist fighting their way (unknowingly) back into the continental, and are forced to stop fighting, thus setting up a hilarious scene at the hotel bar. These are some the more fun action sequences to see, and a taste of the kind of humor the screenwriters added to the action. Credit to Common for training for the role, and being able to keep up with Keanu Reeves, who’s been through this kind of production before.
Reeves is once again excellent as John Wick, and his great performance once again demonstrates his commitment to the physically challenging role. Common is also great as Cassian, the sort-of archrival assassin to John. Already an intimidating actor whenever he wants to be, Common added some physicality to match his demeanor. Ian McShane is also great once again, as Winston the owner of the Continental.
A few problems I had with John Wick: Chapter 2 are more personal, than the actual film’s fault. First, the film ends with John breaking the Continental’s rules by killing Santino. John later meets with the owner of the hotel (McShane), and seems quite surprised at the consequences. I just had a tough time buying that John would go so far as to kill someone inside the Continental. Santino is a guy who clearly isn’t as dangerous as he thinks, thus by killing him it sets up a whole new world’s worth of trouble for John. It’s an ending that’s clearly meant to set up a third film. My other problem lies with Laurence Fishburne, who plays a ruthless crime lord called The Bowery King. A veteran actor like Fishburne is always a welcome to any movie, and it was awesome seeing him and Reeves onscreen together again. However, I felt his performance was often too over-the-top, and sort of took me out of the movie. Not saying you were bad Laurence, but just tone it down next time. Lastly, why did John Leguizamo even agree to reprise his role? He’s in one brief scene, and that’s pretty much it. Kind of a waste, considering how good he was in the first film.
I don’t mean to pick on John Wick: Chapter 2 much, because at the end of the day it’s all about having fun watching John Wick kick ass. That’s exactly what you’ll have, and so much more in this sequel. I’ll go as far as to say, this film is better than the first. The action, the humor, the fight choreography, the weapons and suits are even greater this time around. Chad Stahelski flies solo this time around in the director’s chair, and delivers an outstanding action/thriller for grownups.
John Wick 2 gets a 9.3 out of 10