The first John Wick came out a few years ago and surprised us all. Keanu came back to the spotlight to deliver one of the best action movies in the past decade probably, essentially creating a genre now aptly called “gun-fu.” That movie surprised us and became a cult classic. Can a sequel live up to that?
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a retired assassin, who in the first movie gets drawn out of retirement when the son of a mob boss accidentally breaks into his home and kills his dog, not knowing that John Wick is referred to as “the Boogeyman” by other assassins because he’s so damn good. Now that he’s out of retirement, this movie brings in someone that Keanu made a deal with once and now it’s time for Keanu to pay up, in the form of murder. We see a brother sister duo (Ricardo Scamarcio and Claudia Gerini) who are in control of a major portion of the crime underworld but can’t necessarily be trusted, with their main bodyguards played by Ruby Rose and Common. We also see the “Manager” of a neutral-zone called the Continental, played by Ian McShane. Lastly, we introduce Lawrence Fishburne in a glorified cameo.
This movie opens with one of the best action sequences I’ve seen in a long time. They are absolutely dedicated to real stunt work and doing things that are unique and new, this doesn’t feel like a copy and paste action film. Throughout the movie, they continually find new ways to have action setpieces, with Keanu racking up a kill count in the triple digits. The action is fast and visceral, yet doesn’t rely on quick cuts. It’s violent, very violent, as John Wick never misses a headshot. So be ready for some bloodshed, if that’s what you’re looking for.
More generally, the movie is absolutely stunning, shot beautifully by director Chad Stahelski who did the first John Wick and was the stunt coordinator for the Matrix movies, 300, and The Expendables. This guy nails it here, allowing cinematographer Dan Laustsen to also shine with visuals that are bright and vivid and completely unique. This movie brings elements together that you wouldn’t expect, most notably a rave held in some Roman ruins that gives you a sequence that is visually unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
I also want to touch on the mythology of John Wick because the first movie teased us with little glimpses into this world and the rules that govern them. This movie goes even further, showing us just how much power these people have. Your sense of realism is going to go down the drain, because at one point it seems like every person out in the city is an assassin. If you can let that go, though, you’ll have a great time here.
Lastly, this movie ends with a cliffhanger that I usually don’t enjoy but this cliffhanger could be leading up to the most badass John Wick movie yet, so I don’t mind as long as we eventually get that movie.
What doesn’t work?
In terms of violence, some of you will not enjoy this. It’s not necessarily gore but there’s blood everywhere. There’s also one lingering death scene that had my stomach lurching that lasted way too long and might trigger some of you that have struggles or experiences with suicide. I did not enjoy that segment of the movie.
Also like I said earlier, your sense of realism needs to be turned off. There are gun fights in crowded rooms in which no bystanders are hurt. There is a shootout between Keanu and Common that involves silencers and somehow the entire room doesn’t notice them shooting at each other. And for some reason, not a single trained assassin can ever get a headshot on John Wick, it’s like he’s fighting Stormtroopers. Just let it go and you’ll be fine.
Some people also question John Wick’s motivation here, since the first movie had a such a strong revenge arc. This movie doesn’t but it also explains pretty clearly that he has no choice in what he’s doing, it’s out of necessity. But it’s not as strong a reason as the first movie.
This movie is so close to being a 5/5 for me, being one of the best action movies I’ve seen in a long time. I don’t know if it lives up to the first movie though, as Wick’s motivations are a little lacking and the absurdity of the story is ramped up a ton. The movie however deliver some absolutely jawdropping action sequences, with beautiful cinematography. The stunt work is top notch too, some moments actually making me jump and cringe because it looks like it hurt so bad. If you want some fun escapism, check out John Wick, Chapter 2. It’d be helpful if you’ve seen the first movie, so maybe rent that first.