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I'll get this out of the way first: I enjoyed this movie. A lot. It is entertaining from start to finish. And I'm REALLY looking forward to the sequel. But... something still felt off to me.
What the movie gets right, is expanding the most obvious good parts from the first John Wick film: The worldbuilding is still excellent (the scene with the sommelier in particular was an absolute riot), the action is even more engaging and brutal, the banter even more snarky and amusing. They took what worked and turned it all Up to Eleven. There's a lot to love about this movie, for sure.
What the movie lacks though is any reason for me to actually care about it all. John Wick worked because John Wick (the character) was thoroughly humanized and, yes, seeing his dog get killed is a simple yet effective moment of connecting me to that movie emotionally and... John Wick: Chapter 2 kinda lacks this. Oh, sure, they burn down his house in the beginning, and pics of his wife with it, but... that's just it. Nothing and noone really *dies* for John, and we don't get another scene mid-movie where he breaks down and rants about his motives and emotions which was one of the strongest parts of the first movie (not in the least because it also gave Keanu Reeves a chance to actually act instead of just looking cool and stoic).
Obviously I do not want that exact scene again (one of John Wick: Chapter 2's biggest strengths is that it does not just repeat the same plot of the first one, after all), but I'd still like to have some characer moments and not none. What I've got instead was... functional, but dependent on the goodwill the first movie generated, without that it feels very cold and soulless for me.
But in the end, in no way does this diminish just what a thoroughly fun movie it is, and if you liked the first one you will like this one, too. It is just decidedly lesser, in my opinion.
Generally speaking, action movie sequels tend to follow the same formula as their predecessor(s) - same overarching plot and story beats with some minor tweaks, different scenes and new, fresh quips. It's the "safe" approach to starting a franchise out of something people enjoyed.
Not John Wick, however.
Yes, John Wick 2 is still about revenge, and there's plenty of our boy Keanu stylishly-but-realistically killing poor Mooks - but the plot and beats are DISTINCTLY different. John's still a one-man headshot army on a mission for revenge, but the first half of the movie is dedicated to showing us how he actually pulls off a job as an assassin, from setting up escape routes to locking and loading, and why he's so damn effective at his (old) job beyond just being able to kill people well. On top of this, we get a great deal more insight into how this society of assassins operates, John faces legit threats throughout the movie (the most compelling of which is Cassian, the bodyguard of his initial target), and the ending is not only incredibly tense but also very meaningful in its resolution - no going back to the status quo after this. Above all else, it is different, so I understand why some people do not like it as much as the first movie, even if I do.
In summation, John Wick Chapter 2 is the rare action movie sequel that opts to continue a story rather than rehash it, and one that remains entertaining throughout because of it. Keep that in mind, and enjoy.
I will state right off that this film is solid, even if you haven't seen the first one. And I'd just as happily watch a third.
John Wick Chapter 2 takes some of the most beloved aspects of the previous movie and ups the ante considerably on each front. From minute one, John Wick is an even bigger, badder killing machine than he was before; Keanu Reeves owns this character and sells him every step of the way. This world's dark and sexy mythology, specifically that of the Continental, gets expanded upon. And the thrilling action set-pieces set against gorgeous backdrops such as glowing catacombs, the night-time streets of Rome, and a museum featuring a labyrinthine room of mirrors, very nearly raises this stylish action shoot-em up to be on the level of a genuine work of art.
Where the film falls short, in my opinion, is its story. The first film had such a novel plot with The Dreaded John Wick coming to ruthlessly avenge the murder of his dog, and everyone's scared shitless that he's back. Here, the plot was compromised right from the start. A Starter Villain has the perfect opportunity to kill The Hero: he knows John Wick is coming, what he's coming for, and where he'll be yet does not set any trap or do anything to alert his guards and simply accepts that Wick will massacre everyone. And when the Mook Horror Show begins, all of the guy's henchmen insist on fighting Wick hand-to-hand when they clearly have guns. This bleeds over into the rest of the film. All of the bad guys know who John is and what he can do, yet there is no one who hesitates, no one smart enough to just walk away; this is really evident in the Big Bad Santino, who I found a lot more generic than the previous villain, Viggo. Overall, whereas the first film's action spectacles felt as though they were all serving the integrity of its story and characters, here I felt it was the reverse. This movie's story is basically just an excuse to contrive amazing gunfight and martial arts scenes. Not that I mind, of course.
Also, the dialogue doesn't pack quite the same punch as the first John Wick did. And they may have taken the depth of this story's criminal underworld a bit too far; by the end, I was wondering if there was anyone in New York who wasn't a criminal or assassin out to get John.
Whatever flaws this movie has, though, it more than makes up for it with the sheer virtuosity of filmmaking and choreography that's on display here. It's style over substance this time around, but that needn't always be a bad thing. As with the first film, it's one of the most entertaining action movies I've seen in a long time. In some ways Chapter 2 falls short of its predecessor, but its still a worthy continuation of everything we liked about it. And it leaves a cool setup for a third film.
The film starts out at a quick pace and jumps right into the action. The first few minutes serve as a quick summary of the first film for those who didn't watch it (seriously, why haven't you?). While it does rely a little much on taking to do the explanations at first, there is by no means a lack of action.
The whole assassin subculture is expanded and developed, and as we expect, we see John Wick kick ass. Even so, I have to say I still managed to be surprised at the end. They even manage to sneak in a few instances of dark comedy very fittingly.
The only problem I see is that the mooks were a little too easy... Sure they may have been relying on quantity over quality but nobody can even hit him properly even if they managed to ambush him.
Overall, an excellent film. It maintains the excellence of the first one, although it's not exactly equal - some bits are better, some bits are worse, but it's an amazing ride, no question.
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