John Wick: Chapter 2, directed by Chad Stahelski, takes what was a film that understood itself, and knew how to overcome the tropes of the genre, and unfortunately relies on what it once had overcome. This film still boasts the unrivalled action (in western cinema) that the previous had, and the work and time that goes into it cannot be overlooked. I still found much enjoyment in the film, but it doesn’t fully capitalise on what the first film set out with. This will be a mixed review; some good and some bad, so let’s get to it and see what works and what really doesn’t work in, John Wick: Chapter 2.
Keanu Reeves is back as John Wick, and this film picks up pretty close to where the last one left off (which is helpful). Instead of being able to return to retirement, John is pulled back in by, Santino D’Antonio – played by Riccardo Scamarcio – who now calls upon, him to repay a debt that he owes him. Things of course do not play out as they are initially planned, and John sees a $7 million dollar bounty being placed on his head, and many are eager to collect.
What was one of the original strong points of John Wick – other than the action of course, which I’ll touch upon soon – was that it was a film that knew exactly what it was. It played with the overdone tropes that are prevalent in so many action films, and it had fun. Unfortunately, John Wick: Chapter 2 doesn’t continue with that. From a story perspective, this film felt like any other action film, which in turn bleeds into the characters – primarily John Wick and his motivations. The original took the idea of a revenge story and made it different. In Chapter 2 it’s just a generic, uninteresting plot that never had me engaged or wanting of more from it.
John Wick’s reasons for killing hordes of bad guys this time round lacked any of the meaningful motivation that drove the first film. From an overall plot standpoint, it just felt like any other action film, which is a shame. Now I’m fully aware that, that factor won’t be something that will bother most people who go to see this film – for me it was, and I felt the need to say.
But what this film does continue with is all the other goodness that was on show in the first film. I’m of course referring to the action. The John Wick films continue to be the best that American cinema has to offer – putting everything else to shame. It’s just as much fun and as well done, as it was before, and this time there’s more of it. Now not all the scenes got me as jolly as the first film did, but it would be unfair to complain about having so much of a good thing – that’s just greedy. So while one or two action sequences didn’t completely grab me, there is still a wealth of moments too put masochistic smile upon your face.
And the thing that I must stress my appreciation for, in terms of the action, is just the level of craft that goes into it. All the people who work on these films and help to create these elaborate, joyful action sequences deserve so much respect and praise. From each one, you can clearly see the time, effort, skill and pain that went into making them so utterly detailed and watchable. And I want to filter down my praise for a moment to Keanu Reeves, some of the supporting cast and the stuntmen and women who clearly worked their butt off for every kick, punch and body slam. When you put in the work that all these people clearly did, it shows, and as a lover of good, competent action in my films, I say thank you.
Another point to the film that I also want to praise for not getting messed up is the world building that is continued in this film. Chapter 2 picks up soon after the first, and that allows them to easily build ever so slightly on the pre-established universe, and not overload it with a bunch of unnecessary, expository nonsense. They thankfully reserve themselves when it comes to this, and only add a handful of new elements to what is an ever-growing world of unique and interesting locations and people.
But speaking of interesting people (or in this case, not so interesting), I did find the films secondary characters to be lacking in anything that came close to being compelling; the main antagonist in the film being a perfect example. Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) for me was someone I couldn’t have cared less about. I found his character to be void of anything interesting, and other than a performance that showed him to be having some fun with the role, I thought he was immediately forgettable.
On the other hand though, Ian McShane (Winston) returns with his arbiter like role, and he continues with his reliable, likeable performance. And the film also introduces, Bowery King – played by Laurence Fishburne (that’s right, Neo and Morpheus are reunited) – and you can really tell that he was left to have fun with that character. He has some really interesting line delivery, and is someone I’d happily see more of, going forward.
Overall it’s a mixed bag, in terms of the characters on show; some nail it and will hopefully stick around for future instalments, while others don’t really make any impact at all. I just hope next time the film has a more challenging bad guy for John Wick to go up against. My dream is that they get, Donnie Yen. Can you imagine the fight sequences between him and Keanu? Legendary!
In the end, John Wick: Chapter 2 continues to deliver on what people want from it. While I still think the first film is better, this is still a good addition to the franchise. This one could have probably done with a more compelling script, one that tightened up the runtime, and kept the pace at a more engaging speed. But with these films, it’s all about the action, and no other films from America are doing the type of outstanding work that the John Wick films are.
So I will be recommending, John Wick: Chapter 2. I liked what I got (for the most part) and I’m eager for more. If you liked the original, then you’re probably going to have a continued blast with this one.
I’d love to read what you thought of the film, so please leave your comments down below. Following my blog directly, or following me over on Twitter – @GavinsRamblings, are the best ways to know when I post a new review and I hope that’s something you’re interested in knowing. Either way, thank you for reading my review, and I hope to see you again.