John Wick: Chapter 2 - Review

John Wick's story is far from over.
After leaving a remarkable impression with the surprise hit John Wick,  Keanu Reeves returns as the ex-hitman in John Wick: Chapter 2.
Performing as a character that just after one movie became such a praised and popular name in action movies, the hype and anticipation for this second entry is accordingly big.
There is no question that John Wick: Chapter 2 will once again boast amazingly choreographed action sequences in which Keanu Reeves gives it his all.
However, it remains to be seen if John Wick 2 has what it takes to be as good or even better than the impressive first movie...

The plot:
After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.
Source: IMDb

Sequels mostly have a hard time to recapture the magic of the first movie, be just as good as the first movie or let alone be even better.
John Wick 2 however expertly manages to give fans exactly what they have come to expect from a sequel and manages to extend the franchise's lore remarkbly all the while boasting more than enough action sequences to do justice to the original.
Sure enough, John Wick 2 still never manages to really top what we have seen in the first movie but rather just continues it. With the surprise factor gone, expectations of fans are accordingly high, yet especially when taking this into consideration, John Wick 2 is a very well pulled off sequel.

Don't worry. John Wick 2 is a pretty good movie.

John Wick 2 really feels like the second chapter in John Wick's overall story. With the movie's plot taking place just mere days after the events of the first movie, John Wick 2 feels like a direct continuation of the first plot. However, after a very good introduction of the character during the first hard hitting action scenes of the movie, John Wick 2 then shifts its entire focus from John taking out the Russian mob to him being forced to perform a favor in relation to a blood oath he made years ago.
While it's nice to see other relationships of John showcased as well as getting to see new hints at his past as one of the world's most skilled hitmen, the new plot involving John being forced to obey a blood oath, makes John Wick 2's plot lack the distinct personal and emotional drive that was so characteristic about the first movie. It's nice to see John not once again having to deal with the Russian mob again and now having to focus on other more complex problems, but without the aforementioned personal drive, the motivation for John to get back into the killing business feels a bit forced this time around - at least at first. Luckily though after a while, the movie nevertheless manages to do a deliberate job of shifting its theme from "keeping a blood oath" to "survival", which tends to be when the plot of John Wick 2 really starts to become investing.

John Wick 2 actually really feels like the next chapter of a longer story.

With that said, with John Wick 2 introducing new aspects of the criminal underworld like blood oaths, certain high councils, new mob families, a wide network of assassins etc. it's really nice to see that screenwriter Derek Kolstad noticed fan demands and gave them what they wanted. The lore of the world of John Wick gets remarkably extended and deepened in John Wick 2. After the goings and rules of the criminal underworld only being hinted at and remaining just on the bare surface in the first John Wick movie, John Wick 2 introduces a vast amount of new aspects that really give the entire franchise a whole bunch of new personality and character.
And though all these new rules of the underworld are nice and fascinating, there are times when John Wick 2 unfortunately feels like it overdoes it quite a bit. While the first movie kept things rather realistic throughout, there are certain times, where John Wick 2 really stretches the suspension of disbelief. Thus, there are times when it will be easy for viewers to spot that some of the sacred rules in this criminal underworld seem to contradict each other or that it just feels very unrealistic just how many professional assassins there are in one city. During those moments, John Wick 2 can feel a bit too comicy and a bit too over the top for some. Yet luckily those moments are still kept at a tolerable minimum. 

Despite extending the lore, some ideas in John Wick 2 feel a bit too comicy.

Regarding the performances, Keanu Reeves once again gives 100% throughout this entire movie.
While he is sure enough sadly not given too many scenes to showcase the emotional and more vulnerable side of John Wick due to the lack of personal motivation in the plot, Reeves makes up for that by focussing even more on the action department. With obviously most (if not even all) of the stunts being done by Reeves himself, he has to be applauded for his remarkable and nowadays widely known huge discipline when it comes to delivering great action scenes and stunt choreography.
Also it doesn't hurt that John Wick 2 skillfully introduces numerous sidecharacters like Cassian (Common) or The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) who not only are badasses in their own right but also fun to watch interact with John Wick. In that regard they easily outperform the mostly rather bland and forgettable Russian mob characters from the first movie.

Newly introduced characters like The Bowery King feel very welcome.

What sadly is still pretty lacking in John Wick 2 is the main villain.
Played by Riccardo Scarmacio, the new main intriguing villain in John Wick 2, Italian mob boss Santino D'Antonio, is one of those very cowardy villains who themselves have zero skill and only let their henchmen do all the work - meaning that you shouldn't expect too much of a great big one-on-one standoff between him and John Wick. Additionally, with his motivations being always kept very basic and never going any deeper, he feels very much like a villain that lacks character or let alone enough personality to really hate his guts the same way viewers hated the Russian mob family from the first movie.
And while assassin Cassian (Common) does represent a great new arch nemesis for John Wick, other very built up characters like the deaf assassin Ares (Ruby Rose) ultimately end up being nothing more than a disappointingly quick throwaway fight scene for John.

The main villain as well as his right hand Ares feel quite a bit disappointing.

However, this doesn't mean that the action in John Wick 2 is disappointing - it's anything but.
John Wick 2 actually features probably even much more action than the first movie, mostly due to the fact that the movie works less with build-ups and more with constant tension.
As mentioned before, the movie after a while shifts its focus to a distinct survival theme with a widely known about bounty put on John's head. With assassins now trying to take out John at seemingly every turn, John Wick 2 does great in avoiding to repeat the same formula of the first movie and instead gives us something new.
With action scenes now being much longer and transitioning way smoother into one another, much of John Wick 2 feels like a very amped up version of "The Fugitive".
Choreographywise, John Wick 2 is of course top notch and actually in certain scenes (like especially when John is on the run in the city trying to avoid getting assassinated) much more varied and creative by not primarily focussing on shootout action scenes but very much also on hand to hand combat. While there still sadly doesn't really seem to be a highlight scene or action scene that feels as iconic as the club shootout from the first movie, the action is nevertheless consistently entertaining throughout. 

The theme of "survival" is strong in John Wick 2 and a great change of pace.

Overall, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a great and very satisfying sequel to the surprise action hit John Wick, that despite not reaching any remarkable new heights still is a pretty good action movie.
With extended lore, new themes that avoid recycling the first movie's formula, as well as plenty of very well transitioning action scenes, John Wick 2 visibly had a larger budget behind it, yet also knew how to put it to good use.
Though the lore of the criminal underworld as well as the plot itself have a few moments here and there that feel quite a bit comicy and unrealistic in comparison to the more grounded first movie, John Wick 2 nevertheless manages to consistently entertain throughout and keep you wanting to see more. Despite a rather forgettable main villain, especially the new survival theme in the movie makes for a very tense and expertly crafted final scene that instantly makes you want to see what will happen in John Wick: Chapter 3.
Though arguably not as refreshing and surprising as the first movie, John Wick 2 nevertheless should definitely please fans of the franchise and action movies in general. It's a very promising continuation of a great growing action franchise.

Final Verdict: 7 out of 10


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