"John Wick: Chapter 2" (2017) - Rated R / Runtime: 122 minutes
Directed by Chad Stahelski
Written by Derek Kolstad
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Common, Laurence Fishburne
Review by: JJ Mortimer
Despite being a bit too long and having a few too many "stars and stops" in the overall narrative drive, John Wick Chapter 2 is still a step above nearly all other action movies being released in the past decade, with Keanu Reeves proving once again that he's the ultimate blue collar-style working man/action star in Hollywood.
What sets John Wick 2 apart from other action/revenge films isn't in its storytelling, but rather its film making. The stunt choreography and tactical gun handling, like in the first film, is not only top notch but far above and beyond the CGI-infested, quick-edited crap fests we see in 9 out of 10 action movies being produced today. The action scenes in this film are worth the ticket price alone.
As for the rest of the film, John Wick 2 does have a small tendency to fall into the same shortcomings as other sequels even while maintaining its technical prowess. A little of John Wick's mysticism is lost amidst the action, but luckily not by much. The film also smartly avoids doing any kind of over-description of things he's done in his past (the "impossible task," as well as killing three men with a pencil, is brought up again, but fortunately the film makers leave it as legend and don't try to show the audience a flashback scene showing and describing how John Wick accomplished it). But, like most sequels, the ante must be raised so we are often given almost - ALMOST - a little too much to handle.
The only other somewhat negative I can think about with this film is the fact that it takes place in actual known locations, like New York City, for example. My understanding from the first film was that it took place in a nondescript location, as though the film makers were attempting to create their own "comic book"-style world where a place like The Continental - a haven for assassins to congregate without fulfilling business duties - could actually exist and operate. Here, in John Wick 2, we are led to believe that all of these assassins exist in the digital world we know, while often communicating in analog formats (this will makes sense when you see the film). This little detail may seem minute, but it bugged me a little in the overall understanding of how the John Wick universe was initially established.
Luckily, this film is still a gut-splatteringly good time. Despite the longer moments of discussion and dialogue, when the action picks up, it is not just exciting but ultimately creative. The choreography (as mentioned before) is fantastic, with Keanu Reeves keeping with his insistence on doing the majority of his own stunts, and with gun fighting that can only be described as a "violent ballet of bullets and bodies." In comparison to the first film, the number of bodies John leaves behind is easily 2 to 1, yet somehow doesn't feel like the film itself was TRYING to be bigger and better than the first. The body count lends itself to the film's slightly convoluted story, and finely sets up a future where at least triple the bodies of the first two films will be left behind.
John Wick 2 is a good time at the movies. If you were a fan of the first John Wick, a film that found a particular cult status quickly after its initial release, you should like this second film. Not much more needs to be said than that, other than it can at times feel a little long with too many moments of sitting and talking. While I'm not one to complain about a film's length, John Wick Chapter 2 could have been about ten minutes shorter and been more the better for it - which is saying quite a bit, because Keanu Reeves pours his heart and soul into the role, and the hard work of the film makers pays off with a great action film in return. And having a dog with no given name is a nice touch to the hopeful-anonymity of the John Wick character.