Just a quick note. This will be a spoiler free review for John Wick: Chapter 2, but I am assuming you’ve watched the first one because I don’t hesitate to talk about it. But come on, if you haven’t seen the first one, why the heck are you reading a review on the second? But for everyone else, proceed without fear of spoilers.
John Wick came out of nowhere and both surprised and excited audiences everywhere. Rumors of a sequel started buzzing and before we knew it we were getting teaser trailers and then an amazing full fledged trailer from trailer guy.
The weekend of February 10th saw the release of the long awaited sequel to one of the best action movies ever. Why am I just releasing this now? Because I was hoping to do a podcast review but, alas, couldn’t find the time. So here we are with a good old fashioned written review. So how did the sequel do? Could it even come close to the legend of the first movie? Here’s my review.
I recently rewatched the first movie and noticed things I didn’t the first few times around the block. The first was the superb acting delivered by Keanu Reeves. The instances of heartbreaking emotion and the subtle nuances in each facial expression. The supporting cast had his back and the assassin world that was built had wonderful life in it and a intricate network of awesomeness.
Sequels have a hard time because the viewing public is fickle about what it wants. Sometimes a sequel has to push the boundaries and try new things but other times they have to deliver more of the same. No matter what path they choose, there are people who won’t be happy and give the movie a hard time saying “They shouldn’t have strayed so far from their roots. People want to see more of what the first gave us.” Or, they’ll say the opposite. “We’ve already seen this before, we want something new but in the same world.”
So what I’m trying to say is that people can be bastards and a movie can’t make everyone happy. Or can it?
The answer? Kind of.
This will be a tad difficult to do with no spoilers, but here we go.
John Wick: Chapter 2 gave us more of the same but expanded the world a bit more. We already know what drives John to return to his badass assassin ways. Now we get to see the repercussions, the costs of what he had to do to get out of the business. The first one told us that Viggo Tarasov gave Wick an impossible task to complete in order to be allowed to walk away, and he did it. This movie teaches us the price he payed for it as old ghosts come back to haunt him.
The acting in this movie was solid but there wasn’t really enough for any one character to really shine, unlike the first where Reeves, Nyqvist, and Dafoe both had some fantastic scenes. In this movie, the focus was more on action and world building. We saw more of the assassin underground and a higher body count. This wasn’t an unwelcome surprise as the realistic and gritty violence was one of the best aspects of the first movie. It treated violence and death with a nod of respect. Unlike the explosion laden action movies of the 90’s which were still great but had comical deaths. John Wick is a brutal series but how they handle it kept it from being gratuitous.
Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black), Common (Smokin’ Aces), Laurence Fishburn (Man of Steel), and the other new additions all had great characters but they could have been handled better. More on that later. Let’s stick to what’s good for now in this compliment sandwich with a pencil garnish. I liked the feeling that all these people either knew one another or knew of each other. Not the low level grunt, who got killed faster than a newbie playing Overwatch with a Rock Band drum kit. I’d give a paragraph to the returning actors like Keanu Reeves (Duh), Iam McShane (Deadwood), and Lance Reddick (Fringe).
The downside to this movie, and I hate to say there was a downside, was that I felt the story suffered. I didn’t like what happened BUT it made for an interesting story so I didn’t dock any points for that. What I did dock points for is the fact that some of it felt rushed. Certain side stories had unsatisfactory endings that came out of nowhere. It can be argued that it’s realistic. That just because a certain bad guy is a big deal, doesn’t mean they’ll get a long drawn out story or battle. But the fact is, realistic or not, we’re still watching a movie and there is an expectation of complete feeling stories.
The final downside was that there were characters introduced that we got a speedy introduction to, they did their part, and were just brushed under a rug. This could be fixed in the extras with deleted scenes or it could have been fixed with a longer movie with more time to allow for story satisfaction. I’d go into more detail, but my spoiler free promise keeps me from doing that.
So let me finish up the negative aspects with this. None of the problems were a deal breaker at all. Despite some problematic character development, it was good. Even though I said I didn’t like what happened with the story, it was still good. You, my dear reader, may have a different experience with the story. You may love it and think it’s brilliant. You may think it’s meh. The good news in all this is, that the stuff I didn’t like or had a problem with is forgivable. Better movies have committed worse cinema sins.
The action. You want to hear about that, right? It was %#$@*^ fantastic. John Wick and John Wick Chapter 2 are the epitome of action flicks. Flawless realistic action at its best. Since you’ve seen the first one, you know Wick can get hurt and it’s nice seeing an action movie with a main character who shows battle damage. He’s not immortal. John Wick’s survival was never guaranteed in number one and the same thing is true with number two. Rumors of a 3rd movie are floating around but it could easily be a prequel. It could be a movie showing what happened the night he escaped. OR it could finish the story, assuming Chapter 2 didn’t finish it.
John Wick Chapter 2 was a fun movie that felt like it needed more time to be fleshed out. This was far from being a mindless action movie but the first one was a better and a more well rounded movie. Chapter 2 was good but it’s interesting but incomplete story held it back from getting a full score.
Should you still see this movie? Hell yes. I loved it. The action and the world building kept the sequel interesting and enjoyable. It may not have been a great movie but it was fun and a wonderful movie to see in theaters. Wait for DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming if you must, but I recommend seeing this on a big screen in a cool dark theater with popcorn, soda, and a snack.
John Wick Chapter 2 gets a 9 out of 11