It was 2014 and John Wick, a neo-noir movie starring Keanu Reeves, had just hit the cinemas. Keanu Reeves played the infamous boogeyman known as John Wick, an ex-hitman who seeks blood from the gangsters who killed his puppy. To the surprise of almost everyone, it became a well-deserved hit, gaining a following of its own and a demand for a sequel. The movie launched Keanu Reeves back to stardom, marking a period of Keanussance. 3 years later and here we are with John Wick: Chapter 2, a return to the stylized world of killers, colors, and manners.
John Wick: Chapter 2 sets out with John Wick, who is not excellent at staying retired, when he is brought back to the criminal underworld to repay a debt. With double the budget and twice the action, Chapter 2 is everything a sequel should be: that is to not just be on par with the first film, but to be much better.
For an action movie, world building–the act of creating an immersive fictional universe–is almost always never regarded with much priority. This is not the case for John Wick, as the world building is perfectly established in no less than a few sentences, letting us know what we need to know without taking us away from the gun-toting action. The film expands the criminal industry to the very fringes of society, exposing a world that is fragile and connected to the assassin community.
If you have watched the first John Wick film or have at least heard of it, then you would know that it is a movie about a man who leaves a bloody trail behind him in search for vengeance. The movie ended leaving the audience a note that John Wick has retired for good. Obviously that is not the case–if it were, then there would be no need for a sequel. So why is he back? Chapter 2 questions the very nature of John Wick’s seemingly unstoppable thirst for vengeance, and it dips itself into these questions without losing its focus.
The action scenes escalate the body count and does so with a certain beat. Each sequence does not always become more intense than the former scene; instead, one scene would have John Wick face against dozens of thugs then allow the audience to breathe with a one-on-one confrontation. But not every action scene is treated like a boss battle–that is an extremely fierce fight–but almost always ended abruptly. This kept the narrative pacing fresh and never stale.
Keanu Reeves returns as the remorseful John Wick, a character laced with tragedy whose only way to release his emotions is through glancing at memorabilia of his dead wife and shooting bad guys in the head. Yes, John Wick looked constipated whenever he was angry, but Keanu still deserves credit for being able to show hidden rage underneath a cool demeanor. That is hard to pull off. It was also a delight to see Laurence Fishburne (who plays as the Bowery King) reunite with his Matrix co-star Keanu Reeves. Perhaps in John Wick: Chapter 3 we get to see Carrie Anne-Moss join the film as well? The film heavily focuses on keeping John Wick so badass that the main antagonist, Santino D’Antonio (played by Riccardo Scamarcio) does not get to shine much, which is fine for me, for I’d like the focus to stay on John Wick. However, I will not refuse an opportunity for the next movie to have a villain as menacing as John Wick himself.
Overall, John Wick: Chapter 2, and in fact the overall John Wick series, is the newest definition of action movies. Providing a vibrant, neon-colored aesthetic to the grim and coded lore and mythology of criminals, with plenty more action and characters John Wick: Chapter 2 guarantees that less is not always more; but that more could just mean more fun too.
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