A few years back when John Wick surprised the hell out of everyone as a groundbreaking action film and not just another paycheck movie for a Hollywood action star, I rented it and my wife and I sat down to watch it, my wife didn’t make it past the….. inciting incident of that movie. After I finished watching it, I made sure to tell her that the rest of the movie helps alleviate that scene by thoroughly punishing all involved. Luckily I later got her to sit down and finish watching it with me and she agreed that the rest of the movie makes up for the beginning. And it’s a good thing that I got her to watch it with me because it made sitting down to watch John Wick: Chapter 2 all the better as John Wick: Chapter 2 is a very worthy follow up to the movie that came before it.
John Wick: Chapter 2 picks up a little bit after the original film as we see John attempting to retrieve a personal item from the brother of the main mob boss from John Wick which gives us a fantastic opening action sequence, returning us to the unique style of action that we were introduced to a few years back. After the opening sequence, John attempts to get back to his retirement but, of course, that is not in the cards for him. He is approached by someone with whom he has had prior dealings and is forced back into the world he so desperately wants to leave behind.
This is probably where the movie is the weakest. The story feels like it drags as it spends about 40 minutes setting up the second half of the film, which is important work but it maybe could have been paced a little bit better. I liken it to riding a roller coaster and the 40 minutes after the opening scene being like that little bit of time you spend in the car as it gets cranked up to the top of first drop. Its not why you stood in line or why you bought a ticket but its a necessity for the thrill ride that follows and when you crest that first hill, boy howdy does this movie go off.
The action in John Wick: Chapter 2 is just as delightfully choreographed and brutally realistic as it was in the first one. The big set piece from John Wick in the nightclub is the crown jewel of that movie and John Wick: Chapter 2 ups the ante with two extended set piece, one in a series of ancient catacombs and one in a museum/modern art installation. While both are absolutely astounding examples of what we should expect from modern action movies, for me the catacombs sequence has a slight edge over the museum sequence and that really just comes down to personal preference. Both are designed, choreographed, and executed with amazing precision and care for detail.
The last line in the previous paragraph leads me to something that the John Wick series does better than any other any other movie or TV show that I know of and that’s how it portrays the function and use of guns. Full disclosure about me – I like guns, I have a few and thoroughly enjoy taking them to the range and engaging in some recreational shooting following all safety rules. So when I see firearms in movies or TV shows that I have personally handled or used, I notice it when things are portrayed incorrectly in media. For instance, in both films John carries a Glock 26 as a back up pistol and that particular model has a standard capacity magazine that carries 10 rounds so as the movies progress through the action scenes, if the film makers are attempting to achieve as much realism as possible, it makes sense that we should see John reload after firing 10 rounds. It seems like a simple task but from what little I know of making movies, it must be a giant pain in the ass to get that type of detail right in the finished product and I give every single accolade I can to the film makers for taking the time and paying attention to something like that. Whenever I watch a show or movie where a character clearly uses a firearm well past what I know it’s round capacity is and I don’t seem them reload, it bugs me and in particularly egregious cases, it takes me out of the experience. So again – Thank You, to the directors, editors, producers, whoever else for that attention to detail.
Next to the action sequences, the best thing about John Wick is the world of assassins that this film series has created. Everything we fell in love with from the first film is brought back and amplified for John Wick: Chapter 2 – everything from the gold coins, to The Continental hotel, to the rules that everyone abides by. That underground, unseen world is explored much more in this film and the rules of that world are what pushes the plot of the movie forward. However the best part, is that those rules are only ever explained in detail when the audience absolutely needs to know. Now that may seem counter intuitive, but what made the world building in the original John Wick so great is that it is merely presented to the audience as something that is and something that is not to be questioned. I love, LOVE that is is mostly left a mystery, I don’t want to know how you earn a coin, I don’t want a list of the “house rules” at The Continental hotel, I don’t want to know about how and why things are the way they are because it’s the mystery that makes them amazing. It makes you feel like you’re getting this special sneak peek behind the curtain of a world you could other wise never even get close to. As this film series progress into a trilogy (or past that) and is spun off into a potential TV series centered on The Continental, I really hope all the creative forces behind this property retain that mystery.
As for the story presented in this film, I will say that it’s not quite as compelling as it was in John Wick but if I’m being completely honest, nothing will ever be as compelling as ripping your way though dozens of disposable gangsters to get to the guy who murdered your unbelievably cute puppy, the writers were definitely backed into a corner in that regard. To get themselves out of that corner however, they very smartly rely on the aforementioned rules of the world they’ve built to give all the characters the proper motivation to get this movie rolling as hard as it needs to to live up to its predecessor. My only issue with the story, is that it is very apparent that the ending was written in such a way to leave the door explicitly open for a third movie. That didn’t necessarily hurt my enjoyment of the film at hand but when the credits rolled my wife and I said to each other “Well, I guess we know what the plot of the third one will be” versus “I hope they make a third one!”. A small thing but a very noticeable thing in my opinion.
Just like the movie that came before it, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a fantastic action movie that relies on practical effects and real people doing real stunts versus the CGI heavy action movies that permeate Hollywood today. If you haven’t had a chance to check out John Wick: Chapter 2 or even John Wick, do yourself a favor and pick them up. They are both well worth watching numerous times.
Until next time, Thank You for reading and….
SEE YOU AT THE CINEMA!