When "#john wick" was released in 2014, it seemingly came out of nowhere, with very little marketing leading up to its fall release. Despite being seemingly hidden, the film turned out to be one of the best surprises of that year, along with being one of the best action #Movies of the last several years. Now, thanks to the success of the first, fans are treated to "John Wick Chapter 2," a sequel that lives up to, and even surpasses, the original.
He's definitely back
Following the end of the first film, Keanu Reeves' titular anti-hero looks to move on with his life following the events of the first film, when an old associate returns, calling in a blood debt, to which John refuses, and things spiral out from there.
This serves as the perfect launching point to get the former hitman out in the field, showing off his absurd skills with his hands and guns.
The name of the game here proved to be escalate, don't rehash, and boy, does it. The plot builds from the first, expanding the world of crime lords and assassins that audiences were only given a taste of in the first film, with John traveling between New York City and Rome, interacting and, in some cases, battling an array of new characters based in this world. From the Continental Hotels to a mysterious ruling criminal body called the High Table, this feels like a much more diverse world that seems to go deeper and deeper.
But none of this would work if not for Keanu himself. While he has never been praised as a great actor, he breathes an air of humanity into a character that, in most cases, could be viewed as a mindless killing machine. Instead, Wick comes across as a quiet man that wants to escape his old life, but also seems to welcome the chance to jump back into it.
He helps to anchor the film and is able to provide a connection for audiences to a character that, in most other cases, would be the bad guy.
Ultimately, this is still an action film, so nothing else matters if the action doesn't deliver. The first film served as a great introduction to what John Wick was capable of and why he was so feared, taking on scores of mob henchmen and goons. This is also escalated, as John now finds himself battling not just henchmen, but fellow assassins out for the contract on him as well. This sets the stage for larger and more brutal encounters than the first, with Reeves' training and hard work on display in every fight scene, whether it's a one on one against another assassin or him gunning down nameless henchmen.
All of this coming together so well is a credit to director Chad Stahelski, who took over full directing duties after the departure of David Leitch, who co-directed the first "John Wick" with Stahelski. With Stahelski working behind the camera, the action is among some of the best shot sequences of the last few years, putting his experience as a stunt coordinator to perfect use here.
As a result, the action always feels focused and on point, with steady shots tracking the action and only moving when necessary. This makes it much easier to follow what's happening, and to keep track of the copious amounts of headshots during the film.
All in all, "John Wick Chapter 2" manages to fall into that elite category of sequels that are better than the original. Everything -- from the action, to the world -- feels more fleshed out and put on display for action junkies to consume. #MovieReview