John Wick, “the Boogeyman” (or Baba Yaga, if you prefer) is one of the most feared hitmen in the Continental, the assassins’ guild at the center of the burgeoning “Wick-verse.” As we saw in the 2014 film bearing his name, he is not one to be trifled with. After the death of his beloved dog and theft of his car, he goes on a rampage of vengeance and mayhem. The first film was probably Keanu Reeves’ best role since The Matrix and had great style, action, and even some heart.
In the aftermath of the first film, John has completed his task, taking out the Russian mob and getting a new dog and car. John wanted nothing more to do with the world of assassins, only to be left in peace. However, the more he tries to stay away, the more he gets pulled back. This time, John has a blood bond, aka a Marker, with assassin colleague Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) that he must honor (or face even worse actions). Santino is trying to seize control of the Continental via John Wick. In the aftermath, John has a target on his back as Santino tries to tie him up as a loose end. As a result, the “real” John Wick must be fully unleashed!
OK, let’s first talk about a few things that didn’t work. The politics of the assassins had a bit of a lull towards the end of the first act. While John Wick is the type of movie that can function without action 24/7, it doesn’t need to be bogged down in an endless storyline and slow narratives for long amounts of time. The fact that it doesn’t hold your hand when orienting you into their world forces you to play some serious catch-up. Conversely, the film has a few moments where they try to “over talk” details instead of letting them organically flow.
With that out of the way . . . this movie rocks! Once it ramps up, it rarely slows down. As endless hordes of assassins try and take down John Wick, you get to see Reeves in full action. Now he’s no longer doing high octane kung fu like in his Matrix days, the fights are more brutal and have a great deal of bone-crunching aggression. Reeves is now 52, up there with fellow action star Tom Cruise and edging into the same “Old Man Action” group that Liam Neeson and Denzel Washington are a part of, but he’s in great shape and the fight choreography is very high octane.
While the primary antagonist Santino isn’t that great when it comes to strength, the secondary bad guys are great. The most surprising is rapper/actor Common, who plays Cassian. He and Reeves have the best live-action “Family Guy Chicken Fight” ever as they fight endlessly across Rome, at various points shooting at each other, fist fighting, falling down stairs and subways all over the city. Ruby Rose also plays mute Ares, Santino’s mute henchperson. She shares some sign language smack talk with John Wick as well. With this being the third action movie she has been in this year already alone, she is transitioning into Hollywood well.
The movie will also make you believe that everyone in New York City is an assassin. Literally, everyone in this movie, any number of people try to get at John Wick: a street musician, a bum on the street, a mother with her child at the park, they all try to take a stab at him. Speaking about stabbing, John’s a monster with a pencil! Of course, we also get the reunion with Reeves and Laurence Fishburne. We even get a few Matrix jokes thrown in there as well.
While John Wick: Chapter 2 doesn’t have some of the heart from the first one, it makes up for it in world building, action, and endless headshots. Expect a third film if this performs even average at the box office. There’s still a lot of story to tell!
John Wick: Chapter 2 hits theaters February 10. Directed by Chad Stahelski, John Wick: Chapter 2 stars Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick, and Ian McShane.