It’s rare that an original story begs for a sequel – 2014’s John Wick was that rare occasion. The movie seemingly came out of nowhere and stole the hearts of moviegoers across the globe. It quickly became a staple in the genre and earned “What do you mean you haven’t seen John Wick” status among action movie lovers. Keanu Reeves returns as retired hitman John Wick aka Baba Yaga in John Wick: Chapter 2.
This time, Wick isn’t chasing after some delinquent son-of-a-gangster who stole his car and killed his adorable puppy. He’s forced back into a life he’s desperately trying to leave to repay his debt to a crime boss named Santino D’antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). After reluctantly accepting Santino’s task, there’s a $7 million dollar hit put out on John Wick. John must use his underworld connections to find Santino and avoid the numerous hitmen (and women) trying to kill him.
John is still a man of focus, commitment and sheer will, making any threat to eliminate him a much tougher task than it should be.
Chapter 2 does what most sequels should do – expand the world the audience already knows. 2014’s John Wick introduced the Continental hotels (sacred ground for all hitmen), Aurelio’s chop shop, and Charlie’s cleanup crew. The sequel adds to that fascinating world by showing what the Continental looks like in Rome and the people who supply John and other hitmen with an assortment of guns, bulletproof suits, and an array of knives – the language they use is so professional.
The story also examines more of the rules that bond this underworld together. However, there are no gray areas – follow the rules or get wiped out.
Just like the first film, Chapter 2 waste no time getting to the action and is a non-stop thrill ride for 2 hours. There isn’t a lot of padding; just action scene after action scene and some witty dialogue planted in-between. There are bigger action sequences and set pieces this time around as well as a lot more hand-to-hand combat. John takes out various henchmen in the film’s opening minutes without the use of a firearm. Don’t worry, he makes up for it later with an amazing shootout in the Catacombs of Rome, a silencer shootout with Cassian (Common), he brutally takes down two guys with a pencil, and the absolute bloodbath that is the final act.
Director Chad Stahelski does a tremendous job shooting the action scenes. There are moments where John raises his gun to shoot someone who isn’t in frame yet. This keeps the film paced quickly when it needs to be, yet Stahelski also has to patience to hang on scenes to build tension.
Keanu Reeves is absolutely perfect as John Wick. Nameless goons who get shot are necessary, but the film doesn’t work without his supporting cast. Ricardo Scamarcio as Santino is so unlikable; it’s easy to cheer for his demise. Ian McShane has a little more screen time as Winston and his role in this world is a little more defined. Ruby Rose and Common play tenacious hitmen. They both do exceptionally well with very little dialogue and a lot of action.
It’s not just the violence that makes the John Wick movies work so well, it’s the extremely well choreographed the action sequences. The films have an ability to showcase big and bold action without coming across as cartoonish or parodies of other action franchises. They’re also masterful at finding the most inventive and brutal ways to kill people. It helps that films are silly and self aware at all times – Chapter 2 never takes itself too serious. Its part video game, part Bond movie, and 100% fun.