Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Common, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick, Peter Stormare
Directed By: Chad Stahelski
Plot: Following the events of the first film, John Wick (Reeves) is pulled back in because he owes a debt to Santino (Scamarcio), who wants his sister murdered so he can take her seat at the leadership table. Wick resents being pulled back in, but he’s a man with a very particular set of skills.
What Works: I always appreciate good fight choreography, and this film has it in spades. Reeves actually trained so he would be able to pull off the stunts himself without needing a double. I give him a lot of props for that. Stylistically, this franchise is just dripping. Style all over the place. I also liked seeing all the familiar faces along for the ride this time, from Ruby Rose to Laurence Fishburne, this film added some talent for the sequel, while keeping characters from the original. Even though the story is weaker, it does feel like the next logical step in progression. Unlike the Taken franchise, which struggled to find a reason to make a sequel, this one seems more like it’s trying to do a trilogy, with this being the connective tissue to what will definitely be an explosive finale. There’s a very intricately built world here that I appreciate, and we explore it even more in the sequel. We learn more about the rules, and the hierarchy of the society that Wick lives in. Even though this is a sequel, it still seems wholly original because of this universe.
What Doesn’t Work: The first film had very unique stakes. A hitman is pulled back in because a thug killed his dog. This one doesn’t quite have those same stakes. Because of that, there’s a little less heart in it, and a little less emotional attachment. There was a hint at emotional connection between Wick and his target, as when they meet for the first time on camera, there is a hint of a past history between them. However, the film goes nowhere with it, and I think that was a mistake. I think if we had known how Wick was attached to his target, it would have given it more weight. Instead, the film blows past it, and we just get a ton of action sequences. The action is fun, but what made the first so perfect was the revenge plot and the emotional tie in. Here, we lose that. This became a pretty stereotypical action film, which was a bit of a let down. This is sadly a step down from the original.
Final Word: It is a step down, but the action is still fun. It’s still incredibly inventive, well shot, and fully realized by the world it created. Keanu Reeves still kicks a ton of ass, and it pays off. For comparison sake, I gave the first film an A-.
Final Grade: B