In many ways the first John Wick seems like a happy accident of filmmaking. Take a recognizable actor, place him in the middle of stylish action, don’t complicate the movie with a plot and watch the dough roll in. It’s a formula that’s been tried on several occasions and failed just about all the time. If John Wick: Chapter 2 teaches us anything, it’s that this series is no fluke.
We follow the titular John Wick (Keanu Reeves) at the tail end of his dog-driven revenge tour, slaughtering Russian mobsters by the dozens, all in an effort to retrieve his sweet car. Once that’s concluded, John is ready to settle down and start his retirement anew, but a figure from the past, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), calls upon a debt, and Wick has no choice but to strap up and resume his dark work.
The second installment builds nicely upon the first without feeling like the creative team is simply rehashing scenes. The action sequences are choreographed superbly. This allows the stunt team to showcase inventive gun play and bone-crunching martial arts combat. The action in the movie is as slick and stylish as the first without sacrificing any of the brutality.
The parts I enjoyed the most about John Wick: Chapter 2 are the exploration into the fraternity of assassins and how they operate on a mass scale. It seems like every corner has a person with a knife or gun ready to kill another for money. In a world that’s so violent, it’s immensely important to have a few rules that are beyond reproach, otherwise the whole system would devolve into chaos. Chief among these rules is that The Continental, a series of hotels scattered about the globes, is neutral territory. Another rule is that a blood debt cannot be refused under any circumstances.
If there is a complaint, it’s that the movie is much longer than the first. While more John Wick may seem like a good thing, there is something to be said for delivering a lean action movie. Also, the action is certainly intense, but it doesn’t achieve the same highs that the first one did, particularly when compared to the masterpiece that was the assault on the Red Circle Club.
Overall, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a great action film because it avoids the many pitfalls of modern action movies. Instead of creating a convoluted plot and attaching it to boring sequences, this sequel uses all of its energy on stellar fight choreography and sleek set pieces. This is one of the few cases where style trumps substance.