Action sequels are hard. Really hard. For every great action sequel (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), there are at least a dozen Jack Reacher: Never Go Backs and Robocop 2s and Batman and Robins. For an action sequel to even capture an iota of the quality of its predecessor is a small achievement on its own merits.
So, it’s with a great sigh of relief, that I’m able to say that John Wick: Chapter 2 (hereafter Chapter 2) manages to be a fairly successful sequel to 2014’s cult hit, John Wick, which I quite liked.
There’s a little something for every fan of the first movie to latch on to; for the people who liked the emotional attachment of Keanu Reeves’ titular John Wick with his wife and his dog, there’s a little bit of that. But I don’t believe that’s why most audiences would come to see a film like John Wick – Keanu Reeves is a notoriously stoic actor with little range of emotion, and this is, after all, an action movie.
For audiences who enjoyed the colorful underworld of John Wick, with its cleaners and killers, its hitman hotels and car dealers, there’s a lot more of that. In fact, it somewhat strains credulity to believe that there are hundreds of people all connected through this bizarre underworld, all communicating via a text chain. Of course, credulity is also not really the main calling card of the John Wick franchise; for audiences who like the world-building of John Wick, Chapter 2 will likely fit the bill.
And of course, for audiences who just want non-stop neo-noir action and violence, there’s that and then some. Chapter 2 seems to fully subscribe to the belief that the best method to create an action sequel is to make everything more and bigger. Chapter 2 features more killers, bigger setpieces, more destruction and graphic violence, and a much higher body count.
Chapter 2 attempts a lot more action, a lot more violence, a lot more bodies, but that doesn’t always make for a better movie. In this particular case, I found that Chapter 2 suffered as slightly less coherent, slightly less stylish and well-directed, with action sequences that were slightly harder to follow. The abundance of new characters and different parties interested in the events of Chapter 2 is a bit of a struggle; where John Wick aimed for simplicity in its story, Chapter 2 aims a bit higher, and as a result, falls a bit shorter.
Ultimately, fans of John Wick will find themselves more than satisfied with Chapter 2, and like myself, will come out of it very much looking forward to the (inevitable) John Wick: Chapter 3 that is set up at the end of the film.