John Wick: Chapter 2 full movie review - John Wick: Chapter 2 Completely Lives Up to the Original
I was able to catch an advanced screening of John Wick: Chapter 2. The original John Wick was a great surprise. It really blew most of the movie going public away, concentrating on tight action and creating a cool world to explore.
I was looking forward to this because the original was so kick-ass but I would also have been okay if it had been a standalone. This movie could have been completely derivative and they could have just followed the formula again but they weren't satisfied just doing that. They delivered the bone-cracking action, some more cool characters and they expanded on their universe wonderfully.
*Minor Spoilers Ahead* We pick up soon after the original John Wick, the local Russian mafia chapter is hurrying to pack up their operation. Their leader Abram (Peter Stormare) is eager to bail but his employees are confused as to why. Abram fills them in that the villains of the first movie were his nephew Iosef and his brother Viggo and they were killed by John for revenge. He tells his employees about Baba Yaga (The Boogeyman aka John Wick) as John Wick (Keanu Reeves) stealthily takes out his security. John's there for his Mustang and he won't leave without it. He out-drives and beats up most of Abram's staff until he makes his way to Abram's office. Instead of killing him, he toasts Abram and proposes peace. Abram accepts and John leaves.
The next day, after John spends the day recuperating and playing with his dog (who he picked up at the end of the original), there's a knock at the door. Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) has shown up uninvited and is there for a favour. He wants control of his family operation but the problem is that his father gifted control to his sister. John owes him a marker (a favour promised by blood-oath) and he's collecting on it by making John kill his sister. John refuses but is aware that he could face consequences, breaking this pact is no small matter. Santino and his security force led by Ares (Ruby Rose) start to leave until Santino unloads a grenade launcher and blows up John's house. Now that he's homeless, John heads toward the city with his dog to plan his next move.
The plot of the first John Wick wasn't complicated, it was a man on a mission for revenge. This movie's plot is best described as lean. It's not that deep and the motive is similar. But I think that's fine for this movie, nobody expects Oscar calibre writing from an action flick. Instead of introducing a completely new story line, they do a great job expanding on this universe that was one of my favourite parts of the first movie. They bring you into this secret world where dangerous killers interact but they have strong moral codes. The idea of the Continental Hotel was awesome in John Wick and they build on that in the sequel. They introduce memorable new characters and they brought back some of the best supporting characters from the original. The creative team did a good job figuring out what worked and what didn't in the original and while I wouldn't describe this movie as complex, it provides enough of a story to help string together the fantastic action set-pieces.
John Wick is a character that's well suited to Keanu Reeves. He's the strong-silent type, he's an unstoppable force one moment and pretty vulnerable in the next. Keanu slips into this role again and delivers some more solid work. I actually liked Riccardo better than the villain in the original John Wick, his character makes some questionable decisions but I found Riccardo to be more menacing and collected in his role. I was happy to see Common in a role which gave him the chance to shine. He's not given much backstory or dialogue but he's very intimidating as Cassius and his fights with Keanu are great. Ruby Rose was also really good. She fits into this genre excellently and she also shined in her reserved yet physical role. Laurence Fishburne seemed to be so happy to be there, he looked like the cat who swallowed the canary and he was chewing the scenery the whole time. I really liked that they brought actors back from the first one like Lance Reddick and Ian McShane. They helped sell the mystery surrounding the world of John Wick and they helped the concept grow here.
The biggest reason to go see John Wick: Chapter 2 is the jaw-dropping action. There was no drop in the quality of the action set-pieces and they even improved upon them in some ways. The choreography was tight, the gunfire was loud and explosive and fighting packed the requisite punch. The cinematography was pretty interesting and the locations they picked accented those scenes perfectly. The action bits were also well balanced, they were gory when they needed to be and they were fun to watch. I continue to be impressed by director Chad Stahelski, he knows how to shoot the hell out of a gunfight.
I love a good action movie and this movie was a superior one. Instead of resting on their previous laurels, John Wick: Chapter 2 ups the ante and furthers an excellent franchise. I think this movie will be widely appreciated by action movie junkies (I'm a member of that group) and for that crowd I can't recommend this high enough. You won't find a better movie of this type in the theatre right now and for the adults out there who appreciate this material, it will provide a memorable experience.