Veteran action star Keanu Reeves returns to embody his titular role in John Wick: Chapter Two, which proves to be a fantastic follow-up to the 2014 sleeper-hit that single-handedly revived Reeves’ stagnant career.
John Wick 2 expands upon all of the aspects that made its predecessor so invigorating, and is a near-perfect example for what a film sequel should be. John Wick was brimming with style, featured some of the best gun-fighting I’d ever seen on film, and was set in an immensely intriguing world. It was light on story, but that didn’t matter, because even though we didn’t know it yet, that first film gave us everything we wanted from an action flick: John Wick being an absolute badass. John Wick 2 presents its audience with all of this and then some.
The longer runtime of John Wick 2 allows for an even higher body count, as well as a more fleshed-out story this time around. John Wick is ready to settle back into retirement after his previous encounter forced him to return to a dangerous world of assassination. However, getting out of this line of work is never as easy as Wick would like it to be.
An old colleague, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), drags Wick back in due to a blood oath he’d sworn to years prior, and it’s either he takes on the contract or suffers the consequences. So, of course, Wick is back in it. His target: D’Antonio’s own sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini).
Wick reluctantly accepts the contract, which takes him from New York to Rome in order to intercept Gianna D’Antonio at her own party. Ultimately, the series of events leads to a $7 million contract being placed on Wick’s head by Santino D’Antonio, forcing Wick to instead set his sights on eliminating the brother D’Antonio, all the while fending off countless fellow assassins looking to complete the high-paying hit.
And while the odds are seemingly stacked against Wick, he’s still unstoppable, with his kill count reaching above 100 by the time the credits roll. If this were a less successful production, then the endless action could have become a repetitive, tedious watch, but the fight choreography in John Wick 2 is absolutely incredible. Wick is an expert in many forms of combat, but he’s most deadly with firearms, and the firefights in John Wick 2 are even more exhilarating than those in its predecessor. The way that he seamlessly mixes vicious hand-to-hand combat with slick gunplay is always exciting to watch, and the climactic set pieces riddled throughout the film become increasingly thrilling to see play out.
Director Chad Stahelski, who also directed the first John Wick, has crafted with John Wick: Chapter Two one of the best sequels I’ve seen in recent years. Like the first, the acting is top-notch from all involved (including smaller roles from Ruby Rose, Common, and Reeves’ former Matrix co-star, Laurence Fishbourne), and the neon-lit cinematography from Dan Laustsen beautifully showcases all of the action without missing a beat. Similarly, the screenplay from Derek Kolstad is excellent as it smartly builds upon the ever interesting world of assassins that Wick finds himself stuck in.
To put it rather bluntly, John Wick: Chapter Two is awesome. Seriously, very few action films are this good. This wick has yet to burn out, and if Chapter Two is any indication, then this candle should be burning strongly for many more installments to come.
— Michael Lane, Blog Editor