By: Mark Farmer, Entertainment Writer
John Wick: Chapter 2 entered theaters on February 10, starring Keanu Reeves as he once again returns to his life as a hitman after a bounty is placed on his head. Fans of the original John Wick, rejoice- Chapter 2 is full of the same good action that made the first film so famous. Before we get into the sequel, let’s take a quick look at what made the original work so well.
John Wick was famous for its stellar action and easy-to-follow stunt sequences, with the cherry on top being an interesting world with surprising depth. While many movies (starting with the Bourne series) utilize choppy editing and “shakycam” to cover up poor stunts and fighting choreography, John Wick allowed viewers to witness all of the action in all of its glory, never cutting away to try cover up actors’ mistakes. This is because John Wick was directed and produced by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, both of whom are stuntmen and stunt coordinators; Similarly, the movie stars Keanu Reeves, an actor famously known for doing his own stunts. Clearly, this concoction is the perfect recipe for an action-laden movie that’s actually fun to watch.
Beyond that, John Wick also utilizes a surprisingly interesting plot. After Wick’s puppy is killed and car is stolen, he goes on a murderous rampage to seek revenge. This seems pretty basic on the outside, but there’s much more depth- John Wick is characterized as “The Boogeyman” due to his skill. John Wick embarks on this rampage because the puppy was all he had left of his now-deceased wife. John Wick is a part of a secret, underground criminal organization dedicated to carrying out paid hits, complete with a code of conduct and even its own set of currency. The action in John Wick was great, but this surprising amount of storytelling was an equally-stellar part of the movie.
Now, what didn’t work with the original John Wick? Mainly, the writing was sub-par. Characters (apart from Wick) seemed pretty shallow, and the writing didn’t help that much at all. Lines were pretty cheesy, and no character really appeared to develop much. This didn’t really matter in the original movie, though, because it was all about John Wick- There weren’t any other important characters, other than the stereotypical Russian Gangster, who garnered enough screentime to warrant good characterization.
Unfortunately, this ends up being Chapter 2’s biggest weakness. John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 are both written by Derek Kolstad, whose other movies appear to be no-name action flicks and similar rewrites. It’s no surprise, then, that Kolstad’s weak writing appears again in the sequel. The difference here is that there are more characters that appear who seem to be equally as important as John Wick. A pretty high-class cast signed on for Chapter 2, including Common, Ruby Rose, and even Laurence Fishburne- Each of these characters seemingly have a varied history with John Wick, and hold a ton of screentime, but never get the writing that they deserve. Who are these guys? How does John Wick know them? These questions never get answered, only hinted at- which doesn’t do any of the characters justice.
Additionally, the movie feels much less “epic” compared to the first one, purely because of plot design. In the first one, it clearly seems like John Wick has been painfully dragged out of retirement, and everyone is both surprised and afraid of his next move. In the sequel, it happens… again. The explanation makes sense, but there’s no way any scene felt more “epic” than what the previous film offered, simply because John Wick has already kinda done this before.
While the weak writing explains every bad part of this movie, the good news is that the rest of the flick works great. The action is absolute fun, and each action sequence is a joy to watch. The acting is stellar, with each character interaction (especially when John Wick gears up for the first time) having you fall in love with the world and its people. The sets offer really interesting fight scenes, and the overall sense of style never fails. The less-obvious parts of the movie really nail everything about them.
In the end, if you loved John Wick, you’ll love John Wick: Chapter 2. Everything great about this first movie is capitalized in the sequel. However, while the first movie may have been seen as “breaking the mold” with its unnecessarily good action sequences and fun characters, the sequel will be doing nothing of the sort. No part of Chapter 2 will surprise you or blow you away, and nothing in the movie will be seen as genre-bending or stereotype-shattering.