John Wick: Chapter 2 is two full hours of John Wick goodness. This made me so happy. It’s an epic that expands the world of John Wick and the ambitious action that made the original stand out in the first place.
John Wick gets his own James Bond-like pre-title introduction as he ties up a loose thread from the first movie. Keanu Reeves’ face is obscured until this grand entrance, even though we know it’s him, as is often the case in James Bond movies. Callbacks to the greatest single syllable of the original movie are also greatly appreciated as a franchise tradition.
After settling back down with a new dog, John Wick really intends to retire. But since he came out of retirement in the last movie, it drew the attention of Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) who calls in an old marker. Forced by the rules of the hitman society he escaped, Wick takes the sketchy job even though everyone knows D’Antonio is a fool for messing with Wick.
John Wick: Chapter 2 begins in the John Wick world with green tinted garages and a return to The Continental’s hotel safe space. Then it goes to Rome for international intrigue. John Wick suits up and arms up, and his new suits have special properties that mean the gunfights can go on much, much longer. They also add a bit of fantasy to the John Wick lore, but while they couldn’t exist in real life, they explain how it works and follow those rules consistently throughout the film.
As we meet new characters like Cassian (Common) and Ares (Ruby Rose), they follow the same professionalism that exists between Wick and Continental head Winston (Ian McShane). They can communicate with minimal dialogue because they all speak the same language. It shows that the world inferred by the suggestions of the small community in John Wick really exists, and here they are!
The marker also suggests a larger hierarchy of customs, and the things they can buy with their special coins are really clever. The corners the Continental network reaches are amusing, particularly because there are no questions or explanations. This is just how it’s done.
Once people start coming after Wick, these fights and chases go on much longer, and that means they tell bigger stories with individual action scenes. The storytelling cause and effect is clear. For example in the opening, John Wick crashes into a car. You see the driver getting out so that the next shot, when he hits the windshield, pays off. Expand this to include elaborate foot chases and gunfights and you get a palette even bigger than the first film’s centerpiece nightclub gun battle. A mirror sequence completely works and you can always follow who is real and who is a reflection.
The legend of John Wick pays off in the action. He proves that things we’ve only heard about were true, because he still does them. Just staging these sequences in more public places is more ambitious than contained spaces. They either cleared a subway station for a massive gunfight, or built a subway station and populated it for the gunfight. Either way is impressive. Again, they either vacated a museum or built a museum to have a battle in it. Even better are the silent tactical moves assassins use in public and nobody even notices.
I think movies like John Wick are important, because in real life there’s always going to be some A-hole who thinks he can impose his will on others. They’re always going to push the wrong person too far, and any of us can be that John Wick who can use all our skills to overcome. They’ll never see us coming either because we’re not going to tell them how we can defeat them. We’ll just do it. It would be better if we could nip them in the bud before they cost people their lives as collateral damage. Unfortunately, the Santino D’antonio or Iosef Tarasov type will never learn to just respect people’s wishes and stop provoking their own comeuppance, so these revenge movies will never be outdated.