John Wick: Chapter 2 pretty much picks up where it left off in 2014 when we were first introduced to him. After finishing off those who killed his dog (The last gift from his recently deceased wife. Yes, he has a new dog and nothing happens to it) he then goes after those who stole his car in an incredible opening action sequence. It features a start with an old Buster Keaton sequence being projected onto a building but with the sound effects from Wick’s chase as the backdrop. Buster Keaton is widely considered to be one of the first and greatest stuntmen (who also was a fine actor) in Hollywood history. Keaton rose to fame in the silent film age but when “talkie” films hit the screens, the silent films quickly disappeared. John Wick’s stuntwork is an homage to great stunt work but it also has a flavor and style all its own and that is what makes these films great.
John Wick and John Wick Chapter 2 director Chad Stahelski is a stuntman, himself and you can tell. As in the first John Wick, “Chapter 2” features some of the finest stunt coordination and action scenes you will ever see. This film has a stuntman’s touch in every action sequence and there are a ton in John Wick: Chapter 2. This is an action buff’s dream. But there is also a lot of attention for the mystique of the world of John Wick. Derek Kolstad (who penned the first John Wick, as well) returns with a finely tuned script that details the gangster world of the Continental Hotel, the unwritten code if you are staying there and the consequences if you break the rules. They even use the antiquated operator system that you would have seen in the 1940’s complete with wire plugs and old school rotary phones. Kolstad does a great job with adding the personal story that surrounds the mysterious hotel run by Winston (Ian McShane).
Kolstad’s script still has enough depth to it that we see the personal side of the title character as he is still dealing with the death of his wife. When he is approached by Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) who comes to collect on a favor, Wick politely rebuffs him and things go south from there. This is the setup for John Wick Chapter Two. Pursued worldwide from assassins from every direction who descend onto Wick like locusts, “Chapter 2” is every bit as graphic as the first film and every bit as enjoyable, too. Every action set piece is amazing and the script is peppered with dark humor and more than a couple of great lines are spoken.
These films are only as good as the bad guys and John Wick: Chapter 2 has plenty. Common is Cassian who works for a rival team and is every bit as dangerous as John Wick. He definitely gives Wick a run for his money. Common is an excellent actor but he is also a very physical one and sells the fight sequences extremely well. Ruby Rose is Ares, a smoldering sexpot who works for D’Antonio and also happens to be mute, as well. That is fine. She does not have to say a word. Laurence Fishburne makes an appearance as The Bowery King, the leader of the homeless branch of assassins. Apparently, Zion lets him moonlight on the side when he is not battling the machines. There are also scenes featuring the original cast who make appearances as well. John Leguizamo returns as John Wick’s friend and auto-mechanic Aurelio. Jason Reddick returns as Charon, the cultured and classy manager of the Continental Hotel.
John Wick: Chapter Two is longer than its predecessor and I enjoyed the fact that both director Stahleski and writer Kolstad have enough faith in their material and in the audience to stick with this film that is more multi-dimensional than the first film but every bit as exciting, funny and enjoyable as John Wick. Reeves is an action star on the same level as Stallone or Schwarzenegger. Stallone has Rambo and Rocky. Aaahnold has The Terminator and Conan. Reeves now has The Matrix and John Wick. These are all franchises that viewers seem to connect to and with good reason. They are fun and enjoyable. Make no mistake, no one is polishing up their acceptance speeches for the Academy. But John Wick: Chapter 2 is the perfect way to spice up your weekend. It is left wide open for a third film and there is a John Wick television series in the works. As we left the theater, a friend and I agreed it probably will have to go to Netflix or Hulu. There is no way to keep true to the material, John Wick as a character and the world they live in for regular television. I will be there, wherever John Wick lands.
John Wick: Chapter 2 – ****1/2 out of five
John Wick: Chapter 2 – Rated R for language, gore, graphic violence, some brief nudity
John Wick: Chapter 2 – Run Time is 122 minutes
John Wick: Chapter 2 is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.