Apart from the superhero flicks from a certain famous studio whose name rhymes with marble, John Wick: Chapter 2 is another prime example of how unreliable Rotten Tomatoes can be in rating movies today – it is hovering around the 90% mark at this time of writing, for your info. The reason I say that is because it is heavily let down by its bland, lacklustre story which is coupled with horrible pacing to make it a snooze-fest when the guns aren’t blazing. However, like its predecessor, John Wick 2 is a visceral, stylish action thriller stuffed with gunplay pornography which will make any testosterone thick male cream in their pants.
The man, the myth, the legend, and most importantly the Baba Yaga is back. Former hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is forced out of retirement once again thanks to a notorious crime lord by the name of Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). He wants to take over a seat on the ‘High Table’ which is presumably where the big shots of the secret assassin organization meet and talk business. So he enlists John to help him in his endeavour. Reluctant but bound by blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome where even more menacing counterparts await his arrival.
When the original John Wick first came out, the self-contained nature of the shadowy assassin organization was so mysteriously well-crafted that it got throngs of fans clamouring for the sequel to dive into the lore of this unexplained underworld. John Wick 2 delivers on that capacity as it presents to us the people behind this clandestine society instead of those small time mafia bosses while still retaining that air secrecy encircling the title character. It enriches the entire world of John Wick and expands the mythology to give the fans something to hold on to while waiting with bated breath for the third film, which is of course set up in this movie. World building is imperative for such a film to work and John Wick hits all the right notes with that.
There are a multitude of videos on the internet showcasing Keanu’s intensive training with some of the world’s best shooters, most famous would be ‘Keanu shredding with Taran Butler’. His rigorous practice with an arsenal of extensive weaponry really shows for itself during the gun sequences. Chad Stahelski and Keanu Reeves, who worked on the stunts in The Matrix franchise, form a formidable partnership again in creating the film’s fluent gun-fu. Stahelski absolutely nailing the action choreography and Reeves executing the moves with surgical precision. When the bodies start dropping, think of it in the likeness of The Raid. Just that the swift hand to hand combat is now replaced with a symphony of bullet-time and the breaking of bones with clean headshots.
Then comes the boring part and without a doubt, the film’s biggest flaw. Before the ballet of bullets comes on, John Wick 2 goes on a long drag to explain to us the motivation which ignites John to return to the life he left for his wife, Helen. It is roughly an hour of him meeting new people, talking to them, and then the same people threatening him out of his retirement. The dialogue is also pathetically reduced to one liners from John and there is really a massive room for improvement in that department; it kind of makes him less of an intimidating guy as well with neutral-toned lines like ‘Yeah’ or ‘I’ll see you’. He’s an ex-hitman who completed the ‘impossible task’ after all.
John Wick 2 is a love letter to fans of the first movie since it fulfills virtually every expectation the fans could ever want. It doubles down on lore of the film universe and violence to make it a gun enthusiast’s wet dream. The montage of Keanu Reeves shooting people in the face carries the movie through the not as spectacular story to make John Wick 2 an enjoyable time after all.
Should you spend money on it? Yes
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Written by: Derek Kolstad
Based on: Characters by Derek Kolstad
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, Ian McShane, Riccardo Scamarcio, John Leguizamo
Running time: 122 minutes