Released two years after the original sleeper hit, “John Wick: Chapter 2” sets the bar for action sequels by adding more fights, better world-building and a stylish visual flair.
The film follows the titular character (Keanu Reeves) as he gets pulled back into the criminal underground and sent on another quest for revenge.
Picking up immediately after the first film, “Wick” starts off strongly by quickly re-introducing key elements and characters before breaking off into its own story. The plot, while relatively straightforward, is done well and feels concise thanks to the fast-paced action. Moments that would seem slower or cause the pace to drag are used for brief, but interesting, exposition that helps build the world of the film and make everything seem more believable. Unfortunately, the weakest part of the plot revolves around Wick’s reasoning for jumping back into the fray, which seems a bit more forced this time around.
This can be overlooked, however, as it means spending more time with the stoic assassin. Reeves does a great job as Wick, relying more on facial expression and body language over dialogue. The few words that are said, however, are delivered in a way that works well for the tone of the film and makes Wick feel like a true action hero.
Common and Ruby Rose also perform strongly in their roles, serving as excellent foils to Reeves’ character. Rose brings a sense of humor and playfulness as the mute Ares, relying solely on sign language to deliver her lines, while Common is an intimidating presence as the bodyguard Cassian. Riccardo Scamarcio rounds out the cast as the antagonistic Santino, balancing smugness with sophistication.
While the characters are memorable, the weakest part of “Wick” is in their development. The film adds more backstory which helps to build Wick’s legacy, but much of his growth is a retread of the first movie. The other characters, including Ares and Cassian, are pretty one-note and serve more as obstacles for Wick to overcome during his journey.
The journey itself is filled with eye-catching visuals as large set pieces help craft the atmosphere of the film. The action is easy to watch thanks to the clean editing, and pops of color add a nice flair to the overall style.
All of these things combined make “Wick” a must-see for fans of action and those that enjoyed the first movie will find even more to love. Newer audiences should also be able to jump straight in, though watching the first is highly recommended. While the violence may be a detractor for some, the film is an outstanding example of a sequel done right.
An incredible ride from start to finish, “John Wick: Chapter 2” hits the mark by doubling down on what works and shooting for a higher standard of quality.