D.C.’s Take: ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’

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Trying to direct a sequel to an action movie is sometimes a tough thing for Hollywood to get around to, especially when the first movie was good. When it finally does happen, it usually goes one of two ways: it’s either great, like “The Bourne Ultimatum” or “The Raid 2,” or it ends up being terrible, like “Taken 2” or “Speed 2.” However, if you have the right cast and crew to pull it off, that’s a golden ticket right there. Yeah, I’m thinkin’ he’s back! The first “John Wick,” released back in 2014, was a huge surprise. Not a lot of people knew what it was until a month before it came out, but “John Wick” turned out to be one of the slickest action movies ever made. It gave Keanu Reeves a great role, fantastic action and a promising look to start a brand new franchise, continuing with “John Wick: Chapter 2,” also known as “Keanu Reeves Shoots Bad Guys in the Head.” Without getting too deep into the plot, all I’ll say is that “John Wick: Chapter 2” takes place almost immediately after the original. John Wick, again played by Reeves, is returning to the criminal underworld of assassins. And violence and mayhem ensue. I was on board with the sequel because I loved the first one so much, and this had to be better than most of the recent action sequels. Plus, I wondered what else the filmmakers could take from this world and expand. And they certainly did just that. Once again, Reeves puts all his effort into this character. He does a great job committing to the role, doing almost all of his own stunts. At 52 years old, he’s still an awesome action star. I thought he was going to be in lame movies for the rest of his life, but he owns the role of John Wick. Even when there’s cheesy dialogue, Reeves is the perfect actor to still deliver it in a serious way. I can easily foresee discussions on Reeves’ Wick becoming one of the best movie heroes of all time. Chad Stahelski went solo directing this second installment, as his former co-director David Leitch didn’t come on this time around, going on to instead direct “Deadpool 2.” But Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad knew just the type of action we needed. This is a beautifully shot movie that didn’t need to rely on shaky-cam, and focuses on what’s happening between the characters fighting. Just like the first movie, the action set pieces were spectacular. This was everything that I was hoping for. The first sequence felt like I was drinking Red Bull. It’s still a little bit unbelievable that Wick nails so many perfectly accurate shots, especially headshots, and there are a lot of headshots, but I let that slide because it’s just cool. The stunt work is on its high point, and the fight choreography was absolutely outstanding. Some of the best scenes involve Reeves and fellow actor Common fighting or shooting at one another. And the setting of the climax was very unique, and it just shows another way this film one-ups the previous film. It’s also great to see Laurence Fishburne and Reeves on screen together again since “The Matrix Revolutions.” What kept this film from being as great as the first were a few issues that occurred. I didn’t get the motivation for Wick’s coming out of retirement. In the first movie, he had a simple reason: he’s out for revenge. But for some reason, this time around, I couldn’t understand why, and it felt a little forced, to be honest. There’s also more down time in the sequel, as it explores the organization more, which made the first half of the film drag. Still, “John Wick: Chapter 2” is what action sequels should do: put effort into exploring deeper into the mythology of our hero and try not to become over-the-top with the action and making it cliché. I do prefer the original movie because of how unexpectedly great it was, but this is definitely worth checking out if you’re a hardcore action fan, or even just somebody who loves Reeves. And this sets up the (hopefully) third movie perfectly. Just a really good watch overall. “John Wick: Chapter 2” isn’t as great as its surprising predecessor, but is still a fun and entertaining action sequel. B
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