Movie Review: “John Wick: Chapter 2” (R)
As expected, this sequel is bigger, louder, and longer than its beloved predecessor, and while not necessarily better, “John Wick: Chapter 2” is balls-to-the-wall, high-octane, super-stylized fun! Be warned, though: This thing launches a bigger body count in its first 45 minutes than Schwarzenegger’s “Commando” unloaded in its entirety.
As “John Wick: Chapter 2” begins, the legend continues as the skilled killer-for-hire (played, once again, by a committed Keanu Reeves) attempts to a reclaim a piece of property that is rightfully his. What follows is a non-stop thrill ride that finds Wick traveling to Rome to fulfill a deadly obligation so that he might enjoy retirement for good. Of course, whenever Wick gets out, somebody pulls him back in, and this time, he even finds himself on a hit list.
The original “John Wick” was quite a sleeper. It wasn’t a massive box-office hit, but it was certainly buzzworthy, and once it hit DVD, it became perfectly clear that a sequel was only a matter of time. With this follow-up, the filmmakers are unable to duplicate the emotional crux of the first picture, but no matter, because this movie delivers in a big way in the action department, and that’s where it counts. Furthermore, “John Wick: Chapter 2” does a great job opening up the John Wick universe. The idea that there’s an entire killer-for-hire subculture with an honor code and set of rules all its own is a creative one and “John Wick: Chapter 2” exploits this concept to strong affect.
Keanu Reeves kicks a ton of ass here, and at 52 years of age, he does stuff in this picture that’s every bit as physically insane as the stuff he was doing in “Speed” and “The Matrix” way back in the ’90s. And he does it with a quiet intensity and a fittingly dry sense of humor. Speaking of “The Matrix,” kudos to the makers of “John Wick: Chapter 2” for throwing Laurence Fishburne into the mix. It makes for a nice little Neo/Morpheus reunion.
“John Wick: Chapter 2” is a bit overbloated. While clearly impressive in the choreography department, the knifeplay and gunplay do get a bit repetitious by the end, but there’s absolutely no doubt that the energy and action on display is a marvel to behold. From the dynamic car chase opening to a nightclub gunfight, to a street brawl lovingly inspired by the likes of John Carpenter’s “They Live,” this movie simply doesn’t let up.
For all its breathtaking, super-stylized, hyper-real action done mostly by way of real life stunts, “John Wick: Chapter 2” slyly pays homage to James Bond and Indiana Jones, too. Granted, it should be noted that this movie is far more violent. Thankfully, there’s plenty of humor (mostly of the dark variety) to go along with all the carnage and brutality. Watch as a cautious John Wick tries to make it through the city as various members of his own profession come out from the shadows in an attempt to exterminate a man who, quite frankly, wasn’t meant to be trifled with. It’s all pretty amusing.
Again, “John Wick: Chapter 2” isn’t necessarily better than the first movie, but if you’re a fan of this character and the thrilling, high-octane universe he calls home, you’re likely to walk out of this movie with a great big smile on your face. Either that or you’ll walk out with a scowl upon the realization that you’re going to have to wait a couple of years to find out what happens to Wick in the inevitable “Chapter 3.” In other words, if you’re thinking and hoping John Wick will be back, then yeah … I’m pretty sure he’ll be back.