Lately, I’ve been having the internal debate about why some movie franchises on a critical level get a pass and others don’t. The Fast and Furious franchise, whose most recent installments have been lauded by critics because they say it is fun to watch. To me, that franchise is very much akin to the Transformers franchise which has been universally panned by critics. Yet, I can’t help but wonder, aren’t they the same thing? Lots of explosions, half naked women and crappy dialogue are found in excess in those films. One of those franchises is critically acclaimed for doing it. So where does the blossoming John Wick franchise play in? It has the same basic principles. Over the top violence, badass characters to name some examples. Here’s your one key difference; John Wick is actually fairly intelligently made. Its sequel not only lives up to the first, it tops it. While it will win no awards for its acting or storytelling, John Wick: Chapter 2 is delightfully unrestrained and gratuitous. However, above all of that, it is a total blast.
What separates John Wick from the pack of similar movies is the care taken by the filmmakers. The rich mythology and intricacies of the world Wick (Keanu Reeves) inhabits are creative and altogether engrossing. In this installment of what is sure to become a saga, Wick is nearly out of the game, until a old ally returns to collect on the debt John owes him. He is thrust back into the world he is so desperate to leave behind thinking the marker, as it’s called in this collection of assassins, is his final ticket out. Little does he know, the debt turns out to be a death warrant as a massive bounty is put out on his life.
Wick is much deeper than the body count he racks up over the course of the film. Reeves’s ability to play up the melancholic nature of his character is a credit to why these films are successful. There is a profound sense of regret within John and he is ready to leave everything behind. That is not to say he is hesitant to do what he has to do. Quite the opposite as a matter of fact. Wick battles armies of henchmen and even his own brethren in a collection of thrilling and brilliantly choreographed action sequences. Without giving much away, the end of the film certainly suggests more danger is ahead for Wick, and that he may truly never be able to leave this life in the past.
Director Chad Stahelski, a former stuntman who also co-directed the 2014 precursor, clearly has passion for the craft of stunt work. The constant hand to hand combat in this film never feels repetitive. Instead, Stahelski and the actors make the melee in this film incredibly authentic and very much like the sequences you might find in Enter The Dragon, or any Bruce Lee picture. Credit is due to the writing and the creation of this character. John Wick is legendary, that much is clear. His reputation precedes him. Wick is an action hero part Bruce Lee and part Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name. Wick is man of few words, but very strong conviction. Reeves’s scenes with Ian McShane who plays the manager of the assassin’s hotel The Continental are certainly memorable throughout the film.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is no doubt a violent film. Each blood filled set piece is more extravagant than the next and never monotonous. As the body count racks up, new and creative ways are constructed to show it. The movie could absolutely fall into trap of succumbing the typical non-sensical and tedious action bits. Most films in the genre ultimately do. John Wick is better than that. There is a wonderful scene in the subway with Common’s character Cassian and John Wick that may be one of the genres best moments in recent memory.
What makes John Wick and the world he inhabits so compelling is the lore that has been created for these characters. The film finds a way to expand upon said lore, while never really giving too much of it away. There is still room to learn more about this incredible secret society of assassin’s and even The Continental. Everything feels real, and makes the viewer believe maybe, just maybe, this underworld could exist. I mean come on, how awesome would a movie just about The Continental be?
If you’re a fan of sensationalized violence, this is probably a movie for you. It doesn’t just blow things up or create non sensical action just to show the viewer that they can do it, it all serves a purpose. John Wick continuing to rack up kills, only makes his backstory more legendary. We truly understand why he is called the boogeyman. The reward is worth the trip we take with these characters. By the time a third one hits theaters, we will know exactly what Wick has done to earn his inevitable moment of peace. John Wick: Chapter 2 is not a mindless action movie. It is most definitely stead-fast on entertaining you for two hours. It accomplishes that feat, and much more. This is the rare sequel that is better than the original, but in the end, it is one hell of a fun ride.