John Wick: Chapter II
Director: Chad Stahelski
Writers: Derek Kolstad
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Lawrence Fishburne, Common, Ruby Rose
REVIEW BY MIKE DEANGELO:
Action junkies rejoice! John Wick hath returned to ravage the unholy crap out of the secret criminal underworld…and, holy bullets, does he ever. Fans of the first film know the gist: John Wick quits his career as the criminal underground’s most notorious hitman to spend his days making sweet love to his lady. Shortly after his supposed “happily ever after,” his wife passes from an unnamed disease, leaving him one final gift - a puppy to help him through and keep him company during the grieving process. Of course, some idiot man-child of a Russian crime boss decides that he wants John’s badass car after a chance encounter. Naturally, he breaks into his home with his buddies, kills his dog, and steals his car – thus, unleashing John “The Boogeyman” Wick on an unholy quest of glorious “gun-fu” revenge across New York, taking down not only the dummy himself, but his Russian mob boss daddy, as well.
It was a simple, efficient, action-tastic, and surprisingly rich in its world-building. All of this is thanks to the first time co-directors, Chad Stahelski & David Leitch, who were up-to-that-point known as some of the best stunt/fight coordinators in the business, having worked on films like: The Matrix Trilogy, Spider-Man 2, V For Vendetta, The Hunger Games films, Ninja Assassin, Captain America: Civil War, and so much more. They kept the story lean, created an interesting world for their badass assassin to exist, and, most importantly, nailed the action.
Chad and David have since decided to direct separate films - David moving onto directing the upcoming film, The Coldest City, as well as the next Deadpool movie (hell yes), and Chad stuck around to direct John Wick: Chapter II and the upcoming Highlander reboot. The question I had coming in to John Wick: Chapter II was, can Chad and David create quality films separate from one another or are they only good as a package deal? I’m happy to report that John Wick: Chapter II ensures that at least Chad Stahelski is able to keep the quality up, as the film in many ways exceeds its predecessor.
Right away, I can say that Chad and company have nailed building upon what made the first movie great – first, the action is more ambitious, second, the criminal underground that they teased in the first film is heavily expanded upon, and, third, Keanu Reeves kills it. If you’re coming to John Wick: Chapter II looking for more than that, I don’t know what to tell you. The writing is serviceable enough, the rest of the actors do their characters justice (I was pleasantly surprised to see all of the returning minor characters, as well), and the cinematography, like in the first film, is surprisingly great. As usual, I won’t go into spoilery details beyond that.
The only thing that may turn fans of the first film off is that the pacing is a bit slower this time around, which comes with setting up five times more characters and building the world out more. Where the first film was tight and efficient, this one is a bit more of a methodical rollercoaster; however, that’s almost necessary, as the action scenes are so relentless and through the roof that you need a bit of a break here and there. Also, some people may be turned off by the amount of playful, self-aware winks in the sequel, as the first one played everything fairly serious. This time the characters seem a bit more aware of the heightened ridiculousness of the world they inhabit.
In the end, action fans will be pleased, as the body-count is quadrupled (possibly more) and the stunt choreography is also leveled-up & masterfully executed. If all goes well, we’ll get to see Stahelski and company try to outdo themselves all over again in John Wick: Chapter III, as the end of the second chapter certainly tees up an even bigger and bolder third go-round. For the love of all that is fair and sacred, please let this movie make enough money to justify many gloriously brutal sequels for years to come, as I will be first in line every time.
Current Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%
Current IMDB Score: 9.5 out of 10
My Score: 8.9 out of 10