Film Review: "John Wick: Chapter 2"

Keanu Reeves is thinking he’s back… again, as John Wick in “John Wick: Chapter 2”, the sequel to 2014’s “John Wick.”

Promo poster for "John Wick 2." (Photo from Facebook)

Promo poster for "John Wick 2." (Photo from Facebook)

Along with Reeves, the film also stars Common (Suicide Squad, Selma), Ian McShane (Lovejoy, Deadwood), Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black, xXx: Return of Xander Cage), and Riccardo Scamarcio (Texas, Loose Cannons).

After coming out of retirement to avenge the death of his dog, hitman John Wick again seeks retirement, only to be brought back in the fold yet again once a contract he signed years ago forces him to do a hit he doesn’t want to do.

Like the first “John Wick” and unlike many modern day action films, “John Wick: Chapter 2” understands that the best way to film action is to actually show it. There aren’t any jump cuts. The camera doesn’t zoom in 30 different times over the span of a minute. Shaky cam is at a minimum. Director Chad Stahelski and cinematographer Dan Laustsen show the actors’ full bodies in steady and smooth camera as they kick the ever loving crap out of each other.

The filmmakers are proud of the choreography that they’re filming, and they should be. It’s amazing. The fight sequences are on the par with a beautiful dance number. There’s a gracefulness to Keanu Reeves shooting 80 different guys in the head. The shooting, punching, and kicking works at a pace where it’s almost like music. There’s a rhythm to it, making each kill morbidly satisfying, and the audience gets to see it all.

At the center of all the carnage is Keanu Reeves. Not Keanu Reeves’ stunt man, but Keanu Reeves. Well, some stunt work was used for Reeves’ more dangerous moments, but for probably 90% of all of the action, it’s Reeves. When an audience member can actually see the actor, who is portraying the character they’re emotionally attached to, doing these incredible action sequences, it makes all the investing and entertaining.

Reeves is one of those movie stars that appreciates the moviegoing experience. He respects his audience enough to give almost every movie he does his all, and his commitment shows. The fight choreography he performs is beyond impressive. It’s clear that he worked hard at getting every punch, shot, and kick right to deliver the best theatrical experience.

On the flip side, Reeves doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to acting. He seems like a cool guy, and he can deliver a good punch, but his acting has ranged from unconvincing to downright bad

He did, however, do some impressive work in the first “John Wick,” that is, compared to the other work he’s done. He was able to get the audience emotionally invested in the title character and he had a couple scenes where he showed a decent amount of emotional range. Nevertheless, he continues this in this film. He isn’t given as many emotional powerhouse scenes as the first one, but the audience still cares about Wick enough to make them invested in what happens to him.

Going along with emotional investment, the one aspect that makes the first “John Wick” better than this film is the emotional pull. Reeves is likable enough as the character that the audience is still invested in the film, but “John Wick” had that dang dog. Spoiler alert, the bad guy kills the dog, and everyone knows that it’s so much more sad in movies when a dog dies than when a person does. The audience wanted John Wick to get those dog murderers, and when he, again, spoiler alert, does, it’s the most satisfying thing in the world. Again, Reeves is likable enough that the audience cares, but the first “John Wick” takes to cake for overall emotional drive.

All in all, this is Reeves film, meaning that every other actor doesn’t get a whole lot of screentime. Ian McShane is good at looking and sounding cool as Winston, the head of Wick’s assassin agency, The Continental. He doesn’t do much beyond that, but he’s good at it.

Ruby Rose barely speaks, literally. Her character, Ares, is mute, communicating only through sign language. She does get to beat up some people, though, and she gives some good menacing glares.

Common pretty much plays the same character he plays in every other movie as Cassian. He does speak, but not much. He does, however, get to be a part of a pretty cool action scene.

Riccardo Scamarcio doesn’t do anything remarkable as the film’s main villain Santino D’Antonio. He’s not bad, though. He does a serviceable job, and he manages to get the audience to hate him, which is a good thing.

“John Wick: Chapter 2” is a more than worthy follow up to 2014’s stellar “John Wick.” While it doesn’t have the same emotional pull as the first, Keanu Reeves makes up for it as the title character, doing some of his best work both as an actor and action star, complimented by excellent camera and stunt work from director Chad Stahelski’s team of cast and crew.