Former legendary assassin John Wick just wants to retire. After being spurred to action in the original film following the theft of his favorite car and murder of his puppy (a gift from his recently deceased wife), John is able to finish quelling the Russian mob in the opening scene of Chapter 2. Hoping that he could finally hang up his holsters for good, he’s hardly caught his breath when a former ally comes to him with an offer he literally can’t refuse. The rules of the shadowy assassins guild that John belongs to forces him to remain out of retirement for just a bit longer as he pursues his final task with a ferocity and focus that we have yet seen from the sharply dressed killer.
Put simply: John Wick: Chapter 2 is a heart-pumping action film that should serve as an example of what audiences are hungry to see. The legend of John Wick as a film is almost as powerful as the assassin’s: its commitment to steady, long-shots of action and accurate gunplay have won over an audience of action fans tired of the standard action tropes surrounding shaky-cam and jump cut techniques. These shots do not come easy, however, as it requires a level of commitment and proficiency with hand to hand combat and gunplay that most actors just don’t have. Keanu Reeves dedication to proper gun practices has earned him the admiration and respect of many.
If you’re looking for an Oscar-worthy acting performance, you won’t find it here…and John Wick is fine with that. Its self-awareness helps to soften the groans that inevitably follow some of the campy one-liners, but it still owns its identity as an action flick that shoots first and has the audience ask questions later. The one striking departure from this is Keanu’s portrayal of a husband still lost in grief. While he hobbles from shootout to shootout, we still get some tender moments of emotional vulnerability as John reflects on the life of peace he enjoyed for a time with his wife before he lost her to cancer. Keanu is no stranger to tragedy himself: after losing a child to stillbirth, he and his girlfriend broke up as a result of their shared grief. Barely a year and a half later his former girlfriend died in a car accident. Even though these incidents were over 15 years ago now, you can’t help but feel some remnants of his grief as he brings to life an assassin who constantly battles being pulled back into a transitory life of death and mayhem.
Those interested in going to see some quality action sequences in John Wick: Chapter 2 will certainly not be disappointed. Much like the original, the action starts from the opening sequence, grabbing you by the neck and refusing to let go until the final credits roll. While the gunplay is certainly back and better than ever, we also see a lot more hand-to-hand in Chapter 2, which is as excellently choreographed and executed as the shootouts. The result is a series of visceral encounters that will have you murmuring Holy shit every few minutes.
Overall, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a fantastic tribute to action films. While the pacing is fast, the action is methodic and purposeful, allowing the viewer to enjoy every bone cracking punch and fatal head-shot. It continues to pull back the curtain on the shadowy organization that John belongs to without bogging the film down with unnecessary dialogue or drawn-out explanations. There’s an air of mystery and intrigue; a loyalty and professionalism in this world of assassins that is refreshing to see. If you’re a fan of the first film, you need to see Chapter 2. If you haven’t seen the first film…well…you’ve got some homework to do.