(John Wick: Chapter 2, 2017)
A sequel that is bigger, better, and richer in scope and character.
By Jak Luke Sharp
John Wick: Chapter 2, the second installment of a planned trilogy, continues the ongoing story of master assassin John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves, as he is pulled back into the seedy underworld of New York for one last job. The first film of the franchise was a surprise for many, incorporating a vast amount of realistic stunt work with a great psychical performance from Reeves and an emotionally rich story. Fast forward three years and we see Reeves return as the titular Wick in a sequel that is bigger, better, and richer in scope and character.
One, if not the strongest, aspect of the John Wick franchise is its aesthetic and production value. The action sequences are incredibly grounded and filmed with as little computer-generated imagery, focusing on realistic stunt work and utilising some of the most energetic and enjoyable action sequences. The film has three huge action sequences in each act, slowly but surely getting bigger and better as the next sequence follows, each more enjoyable and suspenseful. It is these moments that make John Wick: Chapter 2 stand out from the crowd, as the film is constantly moving with a great pace throughout never stopping to bloat. It does feel repetitive in certain instances; the infamous nightclub sequence is basically replicated and relocated to Rome and the finale is just a different shade to its predecessor but Chapter 2 does add more world building. The film builds on the world first introduced in the first chapter by adding backstory to Wick with the addition of certain characters and story through exposition, it does take away the intrigue but builds on a character that has little contextual character depth.
That is not to say that the film has a few problems. The first twenty minutes are a little shaky, going for style over substance and it felt rather underwhelming. However, the story does get moving thereafter, and overall it is a nice little action sequence that ties up loose ends from its predecessor. Another issue is the villains. The writers and performances struggled to utilise or create any sort of presence on screen, failing to both create any atmosphere or intrigue. Common was a pleasant surprise with a great performance, his character is well shaped with depth and his screen presence is terrific, rivaling Reeves. Ruby Rose is an addition that works in one way and fails in another, her character has an interesting dynamic with Wick, being mute and interacting with him in sign language, but her character lacks due to Rose not being able to perform the role particularly well. The film’s predecessor saw a reunion of sorts with Stunt-Coordinator Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves, with the former the stunt double for the latter in The Matrix (1999). Chapter 2 also does not disappoint in that area as the film also reunites Lawrence Fishburne and Keanu Reeves after almost fourteen years since The Matrix Revolutions (2003). Both actors have chemistry and tension in the scenes they share but the dialogue lacks and it is an issue throughout the film – there were many opportunities in the script to inject humor but it never pulled the trigger (pun intended).
John Wick: Chapter 2 is what many would consider being a perfect sequel, it is the same thing you have seen before with more additions of the lore and sequences bigger and louder. It works perfectly for fans returning but also for any audience wanting to watch an incredibly strong action film.