John Wick: Chapter 2 | Chad Stahelski | 2017 | USA | 132 min | Action | Crime | Thriller
For the most part, I felt that this was what you want to see in a sequel; a bigger, better experience than the (slightly) underwhelming original, John Wick 2 builds upon the base established by its predecessor and runs with it, upping the ante with a larger, more international globetrotting scale to the story, which does a good job of following up the fallout from the first while also planting the seeds for a sequel that the film itself pretty much admits is inevitable, as well as giving us more tantilizing glimpses of the colorful underworld created in the first film, and of course, more action, not just in terms of the quantity of carnage, but the sheer brutality of it as well, as things get a lot down and dirtier here, with a bigger emphasis on gore, and more visceral and intimate hand-to-hand bloodletting.
The only real complaint I had with it was with the sometimes uneven pacing, which fluctuated between slightly repetitive scenes of action and somewhat overlong scenes of, er, non-action, as if the (now solo-directing) Chad Stahelski was trying to justify the gratituity of the carnage by unnecessarily stretching out the quieter moments of dialogue and plot setup inbetween. That being said, the movie is still more confidently executed than the original, with a stronger sense of personality, which goes a ways toward pulling us through the occasional lull, with more badass/eccentric supporting characters, such as Common as a vengeful fellow assassin gunning for Wick, Ruby Rose as an icy, deaf hitwoman who exclusively communicates through sign language (giving the film more excuses to squeeze in even more comic book-style subtitles), and fellow Matrix alumni Lawrence Fishburne reuniting with Keanu in the role of a homeless assassin king who has an entire network of “beggers” working for him throughout NYC.
And, while one could criticize the film’s emphasis on faceless, disposable baddies that attack the title character in sometimes endless, predictable waves, or John’s repeated usage of a couple of basic moves to dispatch most of them, which makes him seem like a live-action video game character, there’s enough visual variety, gallows humor, and memorable, punctuating (and puncturing) moments throughout to keep the movie from becoming too tiresome at any point. Besides, the gratitiousness is kind of the whole point of the film; like the original, John Wick 2 is sheer action movie porn, with no greater purpose to exist but to serve as a pure love letter to the genre as a whole, which it succeeds in doing very enjoyably. At one point, John says “You wanted me back… I’m back!”, and all I could think in response was “Yes we did, Mr. Wick, and yes, you most certainly are”.