Taking place soon after the events of the first film, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finally begins to feel as though he can settle down and live a relatively peaceful life. With his new, nameless dog by his side, he begins to return to the life he left the assassin game for. That is, until the crime-lord Santiago D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) comes knocking, demanding that John pay up on a favor. Thus, John is left at a crossroads, having to decide between returning to a life he so desperately wants to leave or get on the bad side of a powerful enemy.
Like the original, John Wick: Chapter 2 thrives on its ability to create a criminal underworld that is unlike any other that I have ever seen portrayed in a film, creating an insatiable hunger for more information about its roots and workings. Building on the scraps of information we are given in the original, the movie adds details about how assassins in this universe operate and plan their attacks, which is so cleverly written that it makes me wonder how no one ever thought to do an action movie quite like this before. The sequences of watching John prepare to take out a foe, or interacting with other members of the criminal underworld in the Continental (a global chain of hotels that assists assassins, under the one rule that no violence is committed under their roofs) helps bring weight to the film’s characters and action in a way that few shoot-em-ups manage.
And then there is the action itself. It’s hard for me to describe in words how graceful, artistic and absolutely astounding it is to see Keanu Reeves pull off the moves from the amazing choreography and stunt teams. The dynamic nature of the action truly makes the character of John Wick feel like the ultimate badass, especially when he does something like pin a bad guy to the ground with a shotgun, reload the gun while still pinning the guy and then shoot him (that actually happens!). Where many films tend to fall short in the action department because of over-compensating special effects or over-crowding the screen, John Wick: Chapter 2 revels in its ability to leave you awestruck at the might of its physical stunts. I audibly gasped at action segments three separate times. It’s that good.
If John Wick: Chapter 2 were a sequel to any other movie, I would probably be slightly more upset at the fact that the movie lacks innovation when compared to the original, feeling very much like an extension rather than a sequel. I’d also probably be more annoyed by the film’s insanely sequel-baity ending, feeling far less conclusive than the ending of the original and far more like the director is hoping to get funding for a third film. But these issues don’t stack up to the pure joy of watching John Wick tear through mobsters and assassins like they aren’t even there. Director Chad Stahelski, who previously worked as a stunt coordinator for The Matrix films and V for Vendetta, is a master of his craft. I could probably watch 50 more films just like this one and never be dissatisfied. So, at the end of the film when John says he’ll kill anybody who stands in his way, the only thing I could say was “yes, please.”