John Wick: Chapter 2 is a sequel to the 2014 surprise action flick, directed by Chad Stahelski, starring Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Common and Ruby Rose. Saying that I was looking forward to this instalment is an understatement: I am a big fan of Keanu Reeves as both an actor and action star, and I have watched the first chapter in this new franchise plenty of times.
The story takes place right after the beginning of the first movie: the first scene is about John Wick (Keanu Reeves) retrieving his 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 from Abram Tarasov (Peter Stormare), brother of Viggo from the first movie. After an exciting car chase and a brutal fist fight, John goes back home to his new pit bull, and tries once again to put his weapons, suits and violent lifestyle to rest. But peace does not last long, for he is visited by Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), Italian mobster to whom John owes his retirement and a blood debt. Since, in this underworld of assassins, you are forced to maintain your debt, John is forced to don his suit and gear up for one last time. His goal: to kill Santino’s sister in Rome, so that he may take her place among high-level crime lords. As you may imagine, things do not go smoothly, and John is forced to fight his way through a seemingly endless wave of assassins who want him dead.
While the first movie tackled the theme of revenge and coping with grief, the second chapter is about the ghosts of the past who will always haunt you, and the impossibility to change your true nature: Wick knows that he is the best at killing people, but every death that he delivers is brutal, and it always takes a toll on him, so much so that he already tried going away from this life of violence. There is no pleasure in his job, and now that he is back and has nothing to lose, he becomes unleashed, full of rage and ready to stop at nothing.
As far as action sequels go, John Wick: Chapter 2 is easily among the best ones ever made, and it shares quite some similarities to 2014’s Indonesian The Raid 2: Berandal: the first chapter took place in smaller places and it focused mainly on one type of action, while its sequel is set in a bigger space, with more action set-pieces with different weapons employed, and a bigger cast of characters.
The action is electric, vibrant, alive and consistently thrilling through the entirety of the 122 minutes’ runtime: John Wick will fight in a car, in catacombs, at a party, in a museum, in the subway, through the streets of Rome, and even in a hall of mirrors reminiscent of the iconic scene from 1973’s Enter the Dragon. Keanu Reeves gives a more physical performance than last time, running and sliding and rolling constantly while also being as accurate as possible with a variety of handguns. Among the fighters there are also Common as Cassian, a hitman who holds a grudge against John for killing the person he was supposed to protect, and Ruby Rose as Ares, the mute bodyguard of Santino who is tougher than she looks. In the supporting cast we meet again Ian McShane and Lance Reddick as the manager of New York’s Continental Hotel and its concierge respectively.
What makes the action so great are the interesting locations that they are set in, the brilliant camera work, the smart editing that fully shows the detailed and savage choreography, and how original they are. Unlike most action heroes, John Wick is constantly in danger and in every fight scene he keeps getting shot at, stabbed and punched constantly, finding himself covered in blood and with a few new holes by the end of the film. The attention to detail is also outstanding, finding himself always out of ammo and magazines, so that he has to karate-chop someone in the neck to steal their weapon: by keeping the action so believable, there is a constant sense of danger and satisfaction in seeing our anti-hero limp away from a room covered in bodies.
As expected, the underworld that was established in the first entry is further explored without resorting to exposition: there are multiple Continental Hotels throughout the world, there are sommeliers who provide you with weapons, tailors prepare bullet-proof suits, and there is a code of honor that has to be strictly followed if one does not want to have the entire world of assassins on his tail.
Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard are back as the main composers, with Le Castle Vania as guest, and they deliver a powerful soundtrack that turns each action scene into a symphony of violence. The standout moment of this has to be the museum shootout, in which the track that plays, Presto Museum Battle by Richard, is a remixed version of the third movement “Presto” from Vivaldi’s Summer, with fits perfectly with the combination of dark men with guns in a white museum filled with statues, where the walls quickly turn red and each gunshot follows the beat of the soundtrack.
Overall, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a true masterpiece in the action genre: the world feels lived in, Keanu Reeves is perfect as the lead, the set-pieces are bigger and better than the first chapter, the violence is unrelenting, the soundtrack is moving, and the story progresses in a natural way. It is one of the best action movies ever made, a worthy sequel to a great first chapter, and it sets up a third and final chapter that has the potential to be one of the best final entries in a trilogy. A must-watch that is going to thrill everyone who watches it.
Visual Effects: 9
Violence & Gore: 9
Sex & Nudity: 5
Drugs & Profanity: 7
Intensity & Horror: 7