John Wick Chapter 2 review

Kai Christiansen, A&E Editor

John Wick Chapter 2 is the sequel to 2014’s sleeper hit John Wick, and this movie is just as good, if not better. The film follows John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves, as he is plunged back into the hitman underworld and soon finds out that there has been a hefty bounty put on his head.

My main complaint I have with this film really only is the emotional impact from the story. The first film’s story had a greater impact emotionally then this one did. In John Wick, right off the bat his life is complete crap and you feel sorry for him. His wife’s dead and the only memory he has of her is his dog. Then the dog gets murdered by three immature Russian mobsters and they steal his car. You want John Wick to exact his revenge because they stole everything he had. In this one, he’s more or less forced to return to his old ways. As the film progresses, the emotional stakes and ties in the film do build up, but for the first half, the emotional investment just isn’t there.

Besides that, the film is absolutely spectacular. I’m not trying to overhype it, but this is probably one of the greatest action movies I have ever seen. The film was directed by Chad Stahelski, former stuntman for Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, and he really knows how to direct action scenes. All the fight scenes are visceral and never cut away from the action, everything is happening on screen and all the action is understandable. The hand to hand combat is extremely well-choreographed and there are barely any stunt doubles in the film. It’s so nice to see Keanu Reeves actually doing the stunt work and not having a stunt double getting punched.

The highlight of the film is definitely Keanu Reeves. He is 53 years old and is still kicking as much butt as ever. He is a complete B.A in this movie. He’s out there doing the stunt work and giving one of the greatest performances of his career. It’s really refreshing to see him still doing work especially after films like Knock Knock and 47 Ronin.

Not only does the film have a great lead, but a great supporting cast as well. The main antagonist of the film, played by Riccardo Scamarcio, was actually really good. This is the first movie I’ve seen him in and I’m looking forward to his next work. However, the best supporting character was Cassian, played by Common. Every time he was onscreen he consistently gave a great performance and could keep up with Keanu Reeves. His fight scenes were really well done and he had a great sense of character. Ruby Rose was the weakest part of the film for me. She wasn’t bad, but she wasn’t good. Her character felt pretty flat and lacked motivation. All the other characters in the film have a goal they want to achieve or have a reason for fighting John Wick, but her character didn’t have a reason to be there. She was boring and a grain of salt can act better than her.

Moving on from Ruby Rose, let’s talk about something spectacular in the film, the production design. All the sets are extremely original and different from one another. The film has excellent use of color and light. Most of the set pieces in the film use throbbing neons and bright colors to enhance the surreal feeling and intensity of the film. The final fight in the film has an amazing set. I don’t want to spoil what it is because I didn’t know what it was when going into the film, but I can say it is awesome.

The film also has great setup for the third film (John Wick is a trilogy) and has some amazing depth to its hitman society. After the first film, there was a lot to be desired and explored in this universe, and this one explores the depths of this society a lot further. There are rules and laws set in place in the world that make sense and there is an overarching community of assassins throughout the entire world. It’s set up early in the film and comes into play multiple times throughout, setting up the third and final installment in the trilogy.

Another minor detail that I didn’t really like came at the very end. The film is very self-aware and knows its boundaries and never oversteps until the very end, and I’m literally talking about the very final scene. The film doesn’t necessarily require a suspension of disbelief, but that final scene really pushed my limits of what I believed could happen in this universe. It was a slight misstep for an otherwise great movie.

The opening shot of the film actually has an obscure reference that I didn’t pick up on until someone told me. The first shot of the film is a Buster Keaton film being projected on a city wall. In case you don’t know who Buster Keaton is, he’s pretty much the original stuntman. He and Chaplin were both masters of physical comedy, but Keaton always went the extra mile. It’s a nice nod to the original stuntman and is telling the audience “Be ready to see the actor perform his own stunts!”

John Wick 2 is the perfect popcorn flick that has amazing production design, well choreographed action and really strong performances. It’s not a perfect film, but it still has a great sense of self and never oversteps its boundaries until the very end of the film. 8/10