The first John Wick movie was a wonderful throwback to some of the best b-grade action movies I loved in my younger days. While there are still some movie that reach that level today (Taken, The Kingsman), they just aren’t as plentiful as I like. To see one like John Wick remain as overwhelmingly entertaining while still delivering amazing fight scenes was just glorious.
Of course, that means that John Wick: Chapter 2 had a lot to live up to. While it did keep up the amazing fight scenes, this one seemed to fall short of the original film in one key area while working amazingly on another part of the John Wick mythos.
Basically, John Wick Chapter 2 starts out just days after the last movie ended. Last movie, Wick killed Viggo and his son to avenge the death of his dog and walked home with a new dog. This movie started with Wick going to retrieve the car that Viggo’s son stole from him – a loose end from the last movie. There turns out to be a very good reason why he wants the car back and it isn’t because he loves the car.
The reason for getting the car back ties into what made the first movie so great. Outside of the amazing fight scenes, the story at the root of John Wick was someone who lost the love of his life and sought revenge against the people who took away the last memory he had of her. That is an area that John Wick Chapter 2 fails to replicate.
In John Wick Chapter 2, he goes back home and chooses to quit again. He asked Viggo’s brother for peace and received it. Now, with a new dog and another chance at peace, his doorbell rings and Santino D’Antonio shows up to cash in a marker – an unbreakable oath that John Wick is not allowed to refuse. When he tries, they blow up his house and destroy all the photos of his beloved Helen.
That is where they tried to pull the emotional resonance of the story from but it never worked anywhere near the level of the dead dog from the first movie.
John Wick has to go kill Santino’s sister in order to help her brother take a seat at the High Table of the underground worldwide criminal organization that John Wick was a hitman for originally. When he does, Santino betrays him and sends his people to kill him, meaning Wick spends this movie hunting down Santino while also having assassins gunning for him as well. It is a nice addition and this is where John Wick Chapter 2 improves on the original.
The entire world building of John Wick Chapter 2 is masterful. The Continental is an amazing organization that protects their assassins while on their grounds and provides a place where they can be men and not animals like the rest of the population. The entire world of this crime syndicate is amazing and stretches all over the world (we got to Rome in this movie). It is also amazing to see the honor among assassins here (which was hinted at when Ms. Perkins was gunned down last movie for breaking the rules).
There is even an underground system of homeless panhandlers led by The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) that was there just to show the amazing depth of the organization. Seriously, this was some seriously impressive world building.
Sadly, the fight scenes in the movie were a little repetitive (my wife asked why John Wick flipped someone over him in almost every single fight scene). The gunplay was incredible, especially when John Wick started out with seven bullets and needed to take guns from men he killed to remain in the fight. That was impressive. However, this movie was a little more exhaustive to sit through than the first one and part of that is the lack of the sympathetic story of John Wick, which was replaced with a kill or be killed storyline.
At the end of the day. John Wick Chapter 2 was another fantastically fun action movie with gun fights, knife fights, car chases, and more. It misses much of the emotions needed to carry it to something higher, but the world building alone makes this a movie action fans need to see.