John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
The Boogeyman returns, in this action-packed sequel that contains quite high stakes for Wick himself. Who will die & who will survive?
Genre: Action / Crime / Thriller
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Common, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Claudia Gerini, Laurence Fishburne & Peter Stormare.
Run Time: 122 min.
US Release: 10 February 2017
UK Release: 17 February 2017
German Release: 16 February 2017
The first John Wick was an unexpected surprise! After the disappointing 47 Ronin, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Reeves, which made the experience that much better. Two years in, and 2017 is looking promising! Apart from a few hiccups… *cough* The Return of Xander Cage *cough*... we obtained heart-plucking dramas, emotional war stories and now, the much-awaited sequel to the anti-hero assassin. Leaving the screening, I was satisfied with how the continued story was handled, even if it is a minor step down.
After the events that transpired in the first flick, John is visited by an old acquaintance to pay up an inescapable blood debt to the Italian crime syndicate. Forced once again out of retirement to honour the promise made, the meticulous hit-man soon finds himself facing an impossible task. Every assassin is out to take on the legend, who now has an enormous bounty on his head.
The previous premise focused on a much smaller plot, only hinting towards the larger, underground criminal world. This sequel has much bigger ambitions, breaking down those walls, swaying away from the titular character, fully introducing audiences to the secretive society. It expands on already established rules as to how the world works, the code of honour, as well as introducing a hierarchy to the assassins.
Like in the previous movie, the plot is very much action-focused, cranking up the battle segments, as it keeps the narrative element simple to follow. Instead of a revenge tale, it is all about honour plus survival this time around. There is no dull moment, every single scene is fast-paced, perfectly balancing world-building and action segments.
Nevertheless, it is still inferior to the original. The fact that it needs to build upon what was already shown, comes at the expense of quality. While it blows up the action segments, heightening the stakes for our hero, and ends with a suspense-filled cliffhanger, it does not add much to the story segment. In fact, this time around, there is hardly a narrative to follow. The same thing can be said about the dialogue, which has been dialled down.
Everybody involved in this project gave their absolute best physical work! There are a lot of stunts, just like combat choreography at work, which are rehearsed to such an extent that it basically looks real! This is near-perfect action entertainment!
Keanu Reeves proved in the foregoing feature that he was born to play this role. Returning as Wick, he ramps up his physical work, doubles his stunt work and sells the demanding combat moves. Last we saw the title character, he was on a revenge rampage while mourning the loss of his wife as well as his puppy. Here, he is forced to get back into action, for survival. John Wick is lethal but he is still human, getting wounded quite badly.
Riccardo Scamarcio plays Santino, the head of an Italian crime syndicate, just like the main villain. While he does give a chilling rendition of a dangerous, slimy crime lord, his character has no real incentive other than being a prick, compared to Viggo from the prior flick, who was trying to save his son.
Further memorable portrayals are those of Ruby Rose, who plays Santino’s mute right-hand assassin, Common as Giana’s chief bodyguard, and finally Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King.
Ian McShane returns as the manager of The Continental, the criminal underworld’s international hotel chain. McShane’s screen time has been widened, nailing it once again as the enigmatic Winston. Viewers get a better understanding as to how tight-nit his friendship with Wick is. Lance Reddick is fun to see again, though he still has a small role.
Cinematography plus stunt work are once again off the charts! Reducing the narrative, Kolstad and Stahelski focused this time around on enlarging the action segments, with longer combat scenes. This is an action fan’s dream, containing immaculate camera work, framing, as well as extensive battle scenes, captured in long shots. The colour palette is warmer, the special effects use realistic-looking background creations, unfortunately, the CGI blood splatters are still noticeably distracting.
Verdict: Chad Stahelski delivers a solid sequel to his perfect, action-heavy, revenge flick from 2014. That said, it doesn’t reach the greatness of the first John Wick, which had a contained plot, focusing on the lead persona. With this second instalment, writer Derek Kolstad opened up the surrounding world, yet kept the story small. This caused an issue that many sequels suffer from, as the quality of the screenplay simply couldn’t hold up with the original. While the action is ramped up, a revelation is made at the end that seems to be too comical. The world-building, however, is well-handled. The performances are mostly brilliant, especially that of Keanu Reeves and Ruby Rose. Riccardo Scamarcio’s portrayal of the main villain is good, yet is a little comic-bookish. The cinematography is excellent, the music engaging. John Wick: Chapter 2 is a good sequel! I will give it an 8.0 out of 10.
What did you think of John Wick: Chapter 2? Do you prefer it to the first one? Leave a comment in the section below & thank you for reading!