Everyone involved with John Wick Chapter 2 knows exactly what the series is about and what a sequel should deliver. Nobody gets too cute and tries to drastically change what wasn’t broken.
Chapter 2 brings everything fans of the first film could possibly want and obliterates those expectations. By the time the end credits roll, the toughest choice was wanting to see it again or start counting down for Chapter 3.
Just when John Wick (Keanu Reeves) thought he was out, an old acquaintance reminds him he always has something else to lose. Forced to honor a blood debt, John has to travel to Rome to carry out a dangerous, impossible assassination. But even if he succeeds, he’ll have a lot of scores to settle and an even tougher challenge of surviving the night.
The theme of loss has been a driving force in the franchise. It plays well with the weary world warrior character Reeves has honed so well. Reeves is nearing a point that Wick might be his most iconic role instead of Neo from The Matrix trilogy.
One of the most compelling aspects of the first film was the intricate assassin’s guild and the various amenities available. Membership has its privileges. That idea is wisely expanded upon for the sequel.
Winston (Ian McShane) continues to serve as the head of the New York Guild with its impeccably polite greeter Charon (Lance Reddick). But seeing the international flair of the Guild is equally impressive with Franco Nero playing the key mover and shaker in that territory.
Derek Kolstad’s script packs a ton of sharp humor and ironic moments throughout. Kolstad is careful not to get too cute and makes sure the dominant tone is this dark, sinister world of assassins.
Like the first film, Chapter 2 sports an impressive supporting cast. Riccardo Scamarcio is superbly slimy as John’s next target; Common is smooth and intense as a rival assassin nursing a serious grudge against John. Ruby Rose shows more charisma and energy as a mute assassin than she did in a speaking role in xXx: Return of Xander Cage. And the cameo from Laurence Fishburne was a nice and unexpected touch.
Chad Stahelski made his directorial debut with John Wick. Surprisingly, Stahelski hasn’t worked on any other films, but he clearly used that experience to embolden his work on the sequel. Stahelski stages some fantastic sequences, breathtaking viewers and creative lighting in establishing Wick’s world. While the first film was hardly a slouch when it came to style, Stahelski jumps several levels to create a mesmerizing action spectacle.
The final fight sequence in a mirrored exhibit is amazing and one of the best action scenes I’ve seen in years. The fight choreography is so crisply shot that it’s easy to comprehend and follow.
More importantly, it’s staged in a manner that the fight scenes require less suspension of disbelief. It helps that Reeves mastered the use of the firearms, which makes the action play out far more seamlessly. If possible, the action is even more unflinching with a massive body count. By the time the film ends, there’s no question why John is called The Boogeyman.
While the first film was a pleasant surprise, we knew what to expect from John Wick Chapter 2. Somehow the filmmakers manage to deliver all audiences could want and more in 2017’s first absolute must-see blockbuster.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo Credit: Lionsgate Publicity