Film Critic and Writer for ComiConverse.com, the Founder and co-host of the official Nerdcast Network Podcast
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John Wick: Chapter 2 is out in North America and ComiConverse film critic Jordan Samuel has his review of the much-anticipated sequel.
After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.
A decade ago Keanu Reeves hung up his sunglasses as Neo having left a serious impact on the action movie genre. He took a break from the industry appearing in fewer films over the next few years. I’ve always loved his charismatic performances which blend both groundbreaking action sequences, and Reeves’ innate sense of wonder. He returned in 2014 with the surprise action hit John Wick. It was the standout movie of that year and the almost 50-year-old Reevez never looked better. In a year packed with older action heroes — Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer (2014), Kevin Costner’s 3 Days To Kill (2014) and Liam Nesson’s Taken 3 — John Wick was still a standout. At the surface level it was another generic action romp, but with some impressive sequences that harkened back to old school John Woo movies and some strong world building, Wick rose above.
The world class assassin coming out of retirement felt less like a swan song for both actor Keanu Reeves than a celebration on everything that makes an action movie great. The plot was also quite good. From the opening credits, audiences knew that they would be strapping in for a no-holds-barred action film. When the sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2, was announced fans were anxious to see Keanu Reeves’ follow up. His past sequels The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003) both failed on multiple levels.
Director Chad Stahelski, returns and helms a fantastic sequel which not only lives up to the original, but also serves as the next logical stop forward in expanding the established world and creating an exciting franchise. Chapter 2 is less of a genre movie — it finds a charming personality through the addition of characters who flesh out the world of the film. Chapter 2 replaces the dark streets of New York with Rome a smart choice that naturalistically adds another location to the ever-expanding world of John Wick. The Rome setting also leads to some of the film’s beautifully crafted action sequences. The plot is riskier and more complex than the revenge-themed original. Derek Kolstad’s script does more to explain the mob underworld glancingly engaged with in the first film. I enjoyed Chapter 2 more than the original in that regard. It ends up playing out almost like a comic book entry in the life of John Wick, pitting him against new enemies.
Set shortly after the events of the first movie, Wick has taken out everyone he sought revenge against and has a new dog. However, this is all cut short when a former big man returns on the scene. It’s not long before an old rival of Wick’s calls in a favor. Like John Wick, the film’s plot never gets bogged down in a over-complex story.
Explosions and gun fights are the reason many flock out to see these films and Chad Stahelski (famous stunt coordinator who has done everything from 300 and Captain America to Hunger Games) provides great action in Chapter 2. Close quarter shots are used to give Wick a signature flair. Violence is dialed to eleven sometimes making Chapter 2 difficult to watch. Some scenes are so realistic that audiences will be in awe, especially when Wick goes on a rampage with just a pencil.
Keanu Reeves provides his best performance yet. His line delivery is pitch perfect and his action star pedigree helps him in bringing Wick to life. Even outside the action you can sense a proper character whose sparse, caustic dialogue will make you smile in your seat. Reeves has a great comic presence in the sequel. This humor is balanced and judiciously included so that it won’t detract from the overall tone of the film. It may not be an Oscar-winning role but, like Matt Damon’s turn as Jason Bourne, it will be remembered. I can’t wait to see what happens with the future films in this franchise. I cannot get enough of John Wick’s brand of action filmmaking.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is an expansive sequel that brings together everything great about the first one, bringing in new locations and characters to build the film’s world. The films remind me in some ways of the video game series Grand Theft Auto which improved with each iteration. This weekend I believe that everyone should see this film, make it a commercial success, and ensure that a third Wick movie is made.
John Wick: Chapter 2 does everything a sequel should and more. It doubles down on what made its predecessor great and adds new, exciting elements to the mix. The relentless, thrillingly and uniquely choreographed action is all here: with new characters and settings.
Jordan Samuel is a Film Critic for ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @JordanESamuel