A sequel to one of my favorite surprises of 2014, John Wick: Chapter 2 picks up the intense, ball tingling, ass clenchingly awesome action that we all learned to love in the previous film. Keanu Reeves returns as the titular badass John Wick, fresh off his massacre of Russian thugs for the theft of his car and murder of his adorable puppy. Unlike the first movie, where I went in with pretty low expectations and not sure what to expect, I went into John Wick 2 with expectations of a high caliber action thriller that barely lets off the gas with its headshots, body throws, neck snaps, nut punches, and other deliriously delightful depictions of violence I could only imagine in my darkest fantasies. I wasn’t sure it could do it, I was almost certain the movie would be a bit of a letdown, but goddamn not only were my expectations met, they were exceeded. John Wick: Chapter 2 is superior to the first film in just about every way.
We join our hero (not sure if that’s the right word) John Wick directly after the events of the first film. And I mean directly, like mere hours, and the film jumps right into the action as John ties together a few loose strings leftover from his events in the first movie. Straight off the bat, the movie grabs a hold of your attention and let’s you know you wont be disappointed with the action. John legit kills about 10-15 people in the first 15 minutes. The fight choreography in these films is unlike anything else offered in Hollywood, and much of that is because of the hard work Keanu puts in during his training. He makes you believe he is this borderline superhero-level assassin talent. The action is completely over the top, but somehow it feels grounded and realistic.
The real meat of the movie occurs when a figure from John’s past arrives on his doorstep with a mission John cannot refuse, sending him to Rome to complete one final mission before he can retire in peace. One of the things I enjoyed most was how much more we learn about the Continental, the safe space hotel for assassins and the ones who lay down the law of the assassin land. We see more of how the Continental is run, the policies and politics behind it. It is some of the most interesting ideas and content the film has to offer.
The biggest upgrade over the first film though has to be the story. The original was awesome, but it had a pretty bare bones plot. Retired assassin’s dead wife leaves him a puppy, Russian thugs kill puppy and steal his car, retired assassin comes out of retirement to fucking kill everyone. I’m not saying it was a bad plot, it was just simple and easy to get behind because what kind of monsters kill a puppy like that? This time around there’s a full blown story involving past frenemies, business agreements, betrayals, character drama, and more. The supporting characters feel more fleshed out, the bad guy is hateable for reasons other than just killing adorable animals, and John Wick the character is explored more than just John Wick the action guy. Not to make this sound like a plot-driven movie, it’s not at all. The action drives this movie for sure. But there was a major upgrade to the story and I appreciated it.
Of course, the reason you’re going to see this is for the action and I am running out of ways to describe how awesome it is. It’s fucking amazzzzzzzzing. I don’t really know what else you can want from an R-rated action movie. It’s brutal as fuck, with more than a couple kills making me squeal in excitement. One particular set of kills are some of the most satisfying, creative, and intense I have ever seen, and are a great callback to events mentioned in the first movie. It just doesn’t let up and it’s amazing how the movie ups the ante as it moves along. You would think a movie like this, with so many gunfights and hand to hand combat scenes spread throughout, you would see everything there is to see within the first half of the movie. But I don’t know what it is, I could watch him score headshots, wrap his legs around people and throw them to the ground, and knife fight for infinite hours.
I loved this movie. It might be in my top 5 favorite action movies of all time. The only complaints I can really think of is it’s a little long, over 2 hours, and that I didn’t think Laurence Fishburne was really needed. The length is a nitpick because the action is awesome and you don’t get tired of seeing it, but you start to feel the length towards the end of the movie. Laurence Fishburne wasn’t bad either, but he’s not in it much and it felt more like a ploy to get Neo and Morpheus back together. Other than that, I’m hard-pressed to complain. Keanu is great, all the supporting actors are great (Fishburne, Common, Ian McShane, Riccardo Scarmarcio, Peter Stormare), the story is better, the action is even better. It’s just a superior movie to an already great movie. If you like your action movies bloody, foul language filmed, pretty to look at, and bloody, you’re gonna love this.
My Score: 9.5 out of 10