John Wick ended up being one of the biggest surprises of 2014, as the film tells a standard revenge story with some of the best gun action sequences of the past decade. Rarely do sequels live up to their predecessors, but John Wick: Chapter 2 takes everything that made the first film great and takes it up to the next level. Director Chad Stahelski doesn’t try to change what made the first film great; he simply builds upon the foundation it started.
The film opens with John Wick (Keanu Reeves) retrieving his stolen car from Abram Tarasov, the brother of Viggo Tarasov from the first film. Shortly after, John is once again brought back into the assassin community, this time by a “marker” held by Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). According to the rules, John must adhere to the blood oath he made with Santino and do whatever task he asks of him. His mission is to kill Santino’s sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini), so Santino can what he believes to be his rightful place at the council’s “High Table.” Naturally, John accomplishes his task but is soon double crossed by Santino when an open bounty is placed on his head. With the marker gone and his debt repaid, however, John is now free to take down Santino once and for all.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is more than just a mindless action flick like the first as it puts a great effort in detailing the underground assassin’s community that John Wick is a part of. Winston (Ian McShane) and his Continental Hotel play a vital role in the story. The first film alluded to this society but it’s Chapter 2 that really establishes the rules and regulations. The Continental is a safe haven, for instance, as there is a mutual understanding among assassins that no killing be done on the premises. Break any of the rules and you’re either killed or excommunicated from the society. It’s not just one location, either, as nearly every city has some kind of establishment catering to whatever an assassin might need provided they have the gold coins for payment. More importantly, they all seem to know who John Wick is.
The other half of John Wick: Chapter 2 is the glorious “gun fu” style of action. The fight choreography is amazing and showcases the attention to detail in making the gunplay as realistic as possible. Keanu Reeves is much more physical this time around as he utilizes everything within arms reach to leave a trail of bodies in his path. Some of the scenes are downright brutal and will make audiences wince in joy at their depiction. New assassins include Cassian (Common), Gianna’s bodyguard who is out for revenge after failing to protect her, and Ares (Ruby Rose), a mute assassin and Santiago’s right hand enforcer. If you enjoyed John Wick, you’ll fall head over heels for Chapter 2. Everything is bigger and better than before.
Surprisingly there’s also a lot of humor in the film as well. Everyone has the same “oh shit” reaction when they see that John Wick is back once again. Wick and Cassian have a hilarious shootout in a busy subway station in which they casually walk down the platform while shooting at each other surrounded by unaware pedestrians. Yes, it’s absolutely outrageous in reality, but it fits in perfectly with the John Wick universe.
Chapter 2 is as good if not better than the first film and exactly how a sequel should be handled. The film delivers more action while at the same time expanding the mythology of its world. I’ll gladly take an entire book of John Wick stories, one chapter at a time.