‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ (2017) Review – Guess Who’s Back

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After roughly a decade of silence, Keanu Reeves made an explosive comeback with the surprise hit John Wick. The movie proved that Keanu is a 52-year old badass, and the demand for more Keanu branded cans of whoop ass has been satisfied thanks to John Wick: Chapter 2. 

Taking place a few hours after the first movie, John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the titular hitman played by Keanu Reeves dragged back into the life he desperately wants to escape. Bound by a strict blood compact, Wick is forced to take a high-ranking assassination that threatens to wreck havoc in the criminal underworld and in his own life.

John Wick was an unapologetic love-letter to action movies, and Chapter 2 continues this honorable tradition. For those who know of the pain of bad sequels, let it be said that Chapter 2 delivers what’s expected – for better and slightly worse.

Murder Party

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Let’s be real: The main reason why anyone would watch Chapter 2 is to see a seemingly ageless Neo from The Matrix murder as many henchmen as possible. If all you wanted in a movie was merciless action and the high that only well-choreographed gunfights can give, then Chapter 2 does not disappoint.

Once again, Keanu and returning director Chad Stahelski show how action movies should be done. Everything that has made modern action movies intolerable such as epileptic shaky-cam, quick cuts, slow motion montages, and orgies of special effects are thankfully missing. Chapter 2 boasts practical, carefully staged stunts and set-pieces that allow audiences to savor every bit of merciless bodily harm John Wick inflicts on others. 

The best part of the sequel’s action scenes are that they drive the story forward instead of serving as empty filler. Chapter 2 effortlessly melds story with violence, making each bullet and punch mean something outside of maiming people. The action scenes are so seamless with the story that cutting even just one would screw the narrative up. Even if John Wick’s aimbot-level perfect aim may seem ridiculous, he never veers into invulnerable superhuman territory like John McClane (Bruce Willis) did in the abysmal A Good Day To Die Hard. This helps make John Wick relatable, since his expertise in shooting people’s brains out can do little to numb the pain of a bullet graze or a knife to the leg. 

At worst, the action in Chapter 2 may feel somewhat familiar because the John Wick movies lost the element of surprise. The sequel also has comparatively fewer action scenes, prioritizing longer and more methodical assaults over the blitz of confrontations from the first chapter. The new fights lack some of the creativity from the previous film, but this small step down does not change the fact that Chapter 2 still succeeded in elevating brutal street brawls and ballads of bullets into a legitimate cinematic art form. 

Action Figures With Depths

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When John Wick hit cinemas, no one expected a heartfelt story about a retired hitman and a well-developed underworld of criminal syndicates and assassins. Just like how easy it was for the titular character to wield a gun after years of retirement, the John Wick sequel easily returns to these plot threads and delves even deeper into them. Despite the carnage, Chapter 2 never forgets that it’s the second part of John Wick’s overlong bad weekend.

In order to show more of the criminal society of the setting, Chapter 2 sacrifices some action scenes for more exposition and world building. The trade-off may sound negative at first, but this allows audiences to become invested in the world John Wick finds himself fighting. Though the high-rankers of this mysterious shadow society are never shown, their near-omniscient presence is more than enough to make viewers worry for John Wick’s well-being.

Chapter 2 falls short in the character of its lead badass. Keanu still pulls off the emotional hitman perfectly, but his new motivations are not as compelling as those in the first film. Where the first movie gave a lot of depth to what could have been the stupidest plot ever written (i.e. unstoppable assassin avenges a dead dog), Chapter 2 is just a straightforward showcase of the underworld’s laws and enforcers. Chapter 2 has a plethora of interesting new characters, but the major players who drive the story through their decisions oftentimes let their stupidity get the better of them.

This, however, is not a glaring issue since their frustrating stupidity actually helps show how human they are. The cast of Chapter 2 are more than just two-dimensional cartoon villains or nameless bloodbags waiting for Keanu to burst them – they’re people who know they fucked with the most badass dude on the planet. It’s just a question if they’ll apologize or do something stupid – like mock the guy who is said to have killed three people with a pencil.

The Art Of War

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There’s no denying that Chapter 2 is basically a badass comic book come to life and nothing more, but dismissing it because of its relative simplicity would be unfair to the sequel’s efforts and its overall entertainment value. Chapter 2 knows what it is and gives audiences what they want by being one of the best action movies of the decade – second only to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

For some, Chapter 2 is the perfect time killer. But for nostalgic action movie veterans, the sequel to Keanu Reeve’s gun porno means a lot to the entire action genre. In an age of superheroes and child-friendly action “movies” that were most probably filmed by strapping a camera to a dog that’s high off its ass on crack, truly great action movies have become a rarity. John Wick: Chapter 2 brings the genre back to its roots and shows naysayers how the genre can tell compelling stories, even if the constant staccato of gunfire becomes a soundtrack of its own.

Because of the movie’s success, John Wick will definitely spawn too many shoddy imitators, with the totally necessary Robin Hood: Origins being the first. When that inevitability comes to pass, the legend of the Baba Yaga will be known to all.


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