Photo courtesy of Lions Gate/Thunder Roads Pictures/87Eleven Productions
8 out of 10
One of the major things that the original “John Wick” had going for it was that it was an utter surprise. No one expected the little film that went relatively unnoticed till release to be one of the best action flicks of 2014. However, with its heavy advertisement and the success of the original, “John Wick: Chapter 2” completely lacked that advantage. Consequently, I wondered how successful the film would be despite the excellence of its predecessor. However I can tell you that if you enjoyed the original “John Wick” you will absolutely enjoy “John Wick: Chapter 2.”
The two bad things I have to say about the film are that it struggles with motivation in comparison to the original, and that the setup is somewhat boring because we’ve seen “John Wick” going off before. I won’t spoil the whole first 40 minutes of the film, but John’s motivation simply isn’t as clear and pure as the original. It doesn’t really detract from the film as a whole, but it makes a less interesting part of the film longer and it’s harder to get entirely behind John’s murderous rampages. This kind of rolls into my other issue, that during the whole set-up I was really just waiting for John to start murder rampage. It’s an issue that a lot of sequels run into, because you’ve seen how far it can escalate and you’re just waiting for it to get there again. I don’t think it’s particularly bad in “John Wick: Chapter 2,” but it does make the first act feel slow.
Two things the film absolutely does get right is its action and world-building. Keanu Reeves really does deserve an award for his performance as the titular character, if entirely based on the physicality that went into it. Much like the original “John Wick,” almost every action scene is him not a stuntman. For the original he underwent four months of 8-hour-a-day training to gain the precision and physicality to be John Wick. It made the action scenes work then and it’s making the action scenes work now. “John Wick: Chapter 2” is riddled with tight, brutal, and engaging action scenes. It handles the inevitable sequel escalation incredibly well, raising the bar even further without ever having a scene be ruined by the ridiculousness of something. It’s what you’re ultimately there for and it absolutely meets expectations. Much like the action, the world building transfers incredibly well from the original. It never gets in the way of the action and it’s incredibly engaging to see this shadow world of assassins be built upon even further. It’s one of the big things that takes the franchise from good action flicks to great action flicks.
Combine the excellent action and world building with some incredible visual set pieces and Reeves supernatural ability to make otherwise cheesy dialogue work and you’ve got what’ll probably be one of the better action flicks of 2017. It’s one of the first films in a while to have me excited by its sequel ambitions and I can absolutely recommend this film to anyone who likes tense well-choreographed action.