Rarely if ever does a movie sequel live up to the billing of its predecessor. We all know the exceptions too well: The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, any sequel done by James Cameron, etc.
Now we get to add John Wick Chapter 2 to that list of incredible exceptions. Seriously, it's one of the best sequels ever made. WOW.
When the first John Wick movie came out in 2014, it was an incredibly pleasant surprise. For all of the complaints about soulless, empty action movies made on huge budgets just to cash in on the lowest common denominator demographic, here came an action movie that actually had a simple but solid story, a strong cast and a soul that made it cool as hell. Not only that, but it amazingly gave Keanu Reeves what might have been the best role he has ever played in his life.
John Wick Chapter 2 delivers so much more of all that and makes it very clear: Keanu Reeves should play this role for the rest of his life. Period. I don't care how many movies they make.
If John Wick is destined to become an extensive action movie franchise, it will surely go down as one of the greatest action movie franchises ever made. Without going into any spoilery details, Wick finds himself in the middle of a raw deal from a former associate that puts him in a "compromising" position, which ultimately leads to a lot of people attempting to kill John Wick for an incredible price. That's as much as the trailers tell you and that's all that I will reveal here. The actual story behind what is going on is once again refreshingly organic, fits in perfectly with the first movie and digs deeper into the mysterious criminal underworld that Wick uses to his benefit on a regular basis.
What makes John Wick Chapter 2 so much fun though is the carnage. Yep, the absolute bloody carnage of every brawl, gunfight and car crash is just an unbelievable feat of stunt work, visual effects and editing. Make no mistake, this movie is much, much more brutal than the first one. The body count is higher, the number of lethal head shots is higher and some of the kills are downright Punisher-esque in their goriness. It's a symphony of graphic violence that even John Woo would have to tip his cap to, even though it's all fast and in real time, which makes it even more impressive.
Ian McShane and Lance Reddick are back for the sequel as Winston and Charon, the proprietors of The Continental, the hotel of choice for the criminal underworld, and they both pick up right where they left off. Joining the cast this time around are Ruby Rose from Orange Is the New Black, and Common, both of whom play just two of the people looking to put an end to John Wick and his Boogeyman legend. Any Common fans that were disappointed with his two minutes of screen time in Suicide Squad will be delighted to see his character here, as he provides a more than honorable foil for Reeves' Wick during the movie.
Of course, the newcomer that I was most excited about by far was Laurence Fishburne's role as "The Bowery King," and he most certainly did not disappoint. His presence in the movie is awesome not only because it's Morpheus and Neo reuniting outside of The Matrix, but because his character fits so well into the narrative and his performance is "classic Fishburne." He has been one of my favorite actors for a long time now and it was great to see him have fun with one of the Wick universe's criminally inclined characters.
Perhaps one of the best things about the John Wick movies is the fact that they are directed by a Hollywood stuntman, Chad Stahelski, who was Reeves' stunt double in The Matrix Trilogy. When you see the gunfights and the hand to hand combat in these movies, you can hear, see and feel the technical precision and the choreography behind it. It's so well shot and composed for an action movie it's not even funny, and there are a few daring sequences in this sequel that were beyond impressive to watch. Just like the first one as well, Chapter 2 has fantastic pacing, never dragging and also never moving too fast, despite starting the movie with an incredible action sequence and really not letting up for the next two hours straight. You don't even feel like you've been sitting there for that long when it's over.
Seriously, if you are an action movie fan and you haven't seen the John Wick movies, now is the time to get on that. This is a franchise that seemingly came out of nowhere and is likely the best pure action movie franchise in play right now. Keanu Reeves has a knack for finding a few memorable characters along his career, like Ted Theodore Logan from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure or Neo from The Matrix Trilogy, but it's his work here as John Wick that is surely to be his most memorable and most fun character to watch on screen.
GO SEE IT. I'm going to sit here and wait impatiently for John Wick 3. I NEED more of this universe NOW.
JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 - 5 out of 5 - In theaters nationwide on February 10, 2017