It seems that taking original films and creating stale sequels and reboots has become sort of a tradition in Hollywood; in fact, sitting through any set of movie trailers it seems like stale sequels and reboots is all that the American film industry is capable of anymore. Therefore, I had serious reservations about the notion of a sequel to the first “John Wick,” which followed retired hitman John Wick (played by Keannu Reeves) as he goes on a brutal vengeance mission after a mobster’s son kills his puppy. Thankfully, “John Wick: Chapter 2” was as brilliant, visceral and sharply intelligent as the first.
“John Wick: Chapter 2” brings forward the same playfulness, intelligence and refreshingly brilliant action scenes that characterized the first, while similarly developing an understanding of the protagonist as his story evolves. Following the end of his mission for vengeance, Wick returns to his home where he attempts to carry on a life of peace in the wake of his beloved wife’s passing. However, a senior member of a mob family comes back with a “marker” to force him back to his career as an assassin.
As the rest of the film unfolds, Wick is shown increasingly to be trapped into this world of organized crime, gangsters and hitmen. The thematic center of the film becomes his quest to escape a world of violence which perpetually forces him back to the fray in bouts of killing and violence, begging the ultimate question: Is John Wick addicted to this lifestyle?
The fighting choreography is also very entertaining and original: Wick’s fighting style combines lethal, “Mission Impossible”-style beatdowns with James Bond-level finesse. The most exciting fight sequence is when Wick takes on mob body guard Cassian (played by Common) the back-and-forth dynamic of this extended sequence is fairly brutal, and presents Wick with something that the audience has not seen him encounter before: An actual threat. What makes this film so engaging is how the fighting sequences account for a number of dynamics, such as actual magazine rounds and reloading.
Arguably the film does get bogged down with pacing issues; there are entire scenes that feel predictable because of trite dialogue, and even more scenes that are exhaustingly drawn out. These moments can be taxing for a viewer to sit through, but the fight sequences that punctuate them make most of the scenes bearable.
What made the original “John Wick” so successful was the level of self-awareness that was present in the film; the central premise was so ridiculous and irreverent that it kind of busted the fourth wall, creating an implicit comedy to the overall tone of the action film. This level of tongue-in-cheek theatrics was a salving balm against the unbelievably serious tone that action movies always retain, regardless of how ridiculous the premise of the movie is: How is one really supposed to take seriously a beefed up Vin Diesel diving out of a plane in his camaro? The irreverent tone of the first one was in fact excellently carried over to this sequel, with plenty of scenes retaining perfectly timed comedic relief. While the premise is not as ridiculous as the first, and in fact is slightly more dramatic, the plot provides glistening moments of the kind of dark humor that made the first such a fantastic experience. For those who are looking for an entertaining action flick that won’t hurt your brain cells, “John Wick: Chapter 2” is it.