The first John Wick movie is a blast. It's a bloody, gory, action-filled romp, and it was one of the better movies to come out in 2014, a year known for being a great year for movies. Next to Mad Max: Fury Road, it secured itself as one of the better action movies to come out this entire century. This sequel had a tall order to fill, and I was very nervous that it wouldn't be able to live up to its predecessors shadow. Not only is it able to be every bit as great as the first film, it manages to climb over the bar the first film set and become not only a great action movie, but a great exploration of a universe that was more implied by the first film than truly explored.
John Wick was a movie that featured some ridiculously intense and well-filmed action scenes, a compelling lead character, and the implication of a wider universe that was at once fascinating and added so much to the first film. There is a lot to appreciate there, and John Wick: Chapter 2 delivers much more of the thrilling action and even more universe building. The plot, however, has a lot less going for it than the original. While the original's plot felt compelling and heartbreaking and gave John Wick motivation to kill all of these bad guys, here he's forced back into the game, and in that respect the idea of choice is out the window and the plot is less moving for it. In that respect, I thought John Wick: Chapter 2 was pretty weak, and I didn't feel for John Wick as much as I wanted to, like I did so much in the first film. I won't spoil what jump-starts the plot in the first one, but it's a very good initial incident, and the initial incident in Chapter 2 pales in comparison.
That is, really, the only negative I have for this film. In every other aspect, it's equal to or greater than the first film in terms of quality. Much like the first, it's a very hyper-stylized affair, featuring many fluorescent colors and comic-book style camerawork and flair. It lends itself its own presentation and style, and visually it's very impressive. The camerawork is very fluid and coherent here; not a lot of it is handheld and it makes sure to stick to the same standard as its predecessor, as the director remained on the project. It's perhaps even a little unconventional in its style, and that might turn off some viewers. I highly doubt it, though, because the action is still tightly filmed, unbelievably brutal, and a brilliant spectacle for all to enjoy.
Action films are getting worse. Not because of story, character, writing, or things an average audience member doesn't particularly care about. Action movies are getting worse because the action itself is getting worse. Choppy filming, shaky action, and rapid-fire editing ruins action scenes, and thankfully, Chapter 2 has none of the sort. The action scenes here are filmed so seamlessly, so fluidly, and so perfectly. Everything here is coherent, and you can see Keanu Reeves actually doing his own stunts and delivering hard punches to his foes. The hand-to-hand combat here is gritty and feels real and painful, and the gun-fu feels so compelling and brutal. The highly-coordinated action is executed in such a fashion that it's almost beautiful, in an odd way. There's not enough praise in the world I could give the action here. It's any action-movie lover's dream, and if you do like action movies, this is a must-see for you. It's hard-hitting, gut-punching action, and you will feel every blow John Wick delivers.
Keanu Reeves, again, delivers a great performance and proves that he is one of the best action stars of our time. Keanu Reeves can pack a punch, and boy is he ferocious. His presence is at once intimidating and almost godlike. You feel his highs and lows in this movie, and such a good performance doesn't belong in an action movie, but the fact that it's here only makes this movie better. As a 50-year-old, Reeves is capable of punching out bad guys and racking up a body count of nearly 80 and it's great to see. Keanu Reeves grants a great presence to the film, and there is no actor who would be more capable of portraying such a damaged and tough character as Keanu Reeves. He is more than up to the challenge, and he is able to carry this movie on his shoulders and deliver every blow with more than enough finesse.
This is definitely a movie you should check out. It's more than worth the price of admission, and is one of two very good sequels to come out this weekend (sorry, Fifty Shades Darker, but I think I'm gonna have to give you a hard pass). It's a brilliantly crafted action movie, and will probably be the best all year (to project that in February is a bold move, but that's merely a testament to how great this movie is). Although it's brutal and might even make ardent action junkies squirm in their seats a little, if you let it take you for the ride, John Wick: Chapter 2 will deliver on all of your expectations and improve on them. I implore you to go see this film in the theaters as soon as you possibly can.