By Nolan P. Smith
In 2014, a small movie hit theaters with only about 2 weeks worth of promotion. Yet, that movie ended up being one of the best action films in recent memory, and garnered a cult following due to its high octane fight scenes, stylish kills and mesmerizing soundtrack. Of course, that movie was John Wick, and now in 2017, we get the sequel to one of the most talked about action flicks of the decade. But sequels have a tradition of falling flat, and for many, one John Wick film is all they needed. So, did this sequel put down the sequel curse, or did it fall victim to another mundane flick grasping at the flames of past glory?
I am thankful to say that John Wick Chapter 2 delivers on all levels. Director Chad Stahelski is back for round 2, and does so masterfully. Of course, also back is the man himself, Keanu Reeves, as the once retired hitman John Wick. The film picks up shortly after the first film, with John searching for one last thing that was taken from him: his car. But business really picks up when an old associate of John’s pays him a visit, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). With a blood oath owed to him by Wick, D’Antonio sets in place events that take our hero to Rome and back to New York in bloody fashion.
We get to see quite a few familiar faces from the first film: New York Continental Manager Winston (Ian McShane), Continental mainstay Charon (Lance Reddick), chop shop owner Aurelio (John Leguizamo) and more. Plus, we get exciting new additions to the cast, including D’Antonio’s bodyguard Ares (Ruby Rose), the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and easily the best character to enter the John Wick world, Cassian, played by rapper/actor Common. Cassian is the one man that has been able to go toe to toe with Wick, matching his intensity and skills almost step by step.
What this film does better than anything else is world build. We get to see more of this shady world that Wick operates in, from more Continental hotels, the organized homeless scene in New York, to the severity of the blood oath and a behind the scenes look of when a contract is placed on someone’s head. I knew from the first film that this world could be expanded on, and in a very amazing fashion. John Wick Chapter 2 builds its world better than any other movie I can think of from the past year.
Reeves is spectacular as the man in black, dispatching opponents with elegance and extreme gore. McShane’s Winston steps up to the plate as well, showing his importance in this world, and in Wick’s very dangerous life. By the end of the flick, I am literally waiting for the third film to be officially announced. It would have been easy for this film to fall into the pitfall of retreading old territory. But instead, we get call backs and homages to the first film, all while paving a wide, brand new road to the future. John Wick Chapter 2 is a significant sequel, one that measures up to the first film, and pulls absolutely no punches. One of the best films of 2017 so far, who dares challenge the stylish kill king?
Rating: 9.5 out of 10