With the exceptionally irreverent action of the opening film, there were a lot of fans crying out for the sequel and while John Wick: Chapter 2 delivers just as much action for them, there isn’t quite the same level of unforgettable intensity. It’s hard to pinpoint why that is looking back on the film; maybe it’s the forced attempt to outdo the first film or the over-egged extent of the assassin network that he has to face, but it doesn’t land the same killer blows this time around.
Story was never really the most important part of setting things up for John Wick, but it did play its part and sadly, it lacks emotional connection in the sequel. John is essentially forced out of retirement by a power hungry Italian mob family member who’s willing to do anything to take over control of the operation.
However, there isn’t enough connection to draw you into the next chapter with the characters. Even more disappointingly, the culmination of it all undermines John’s initial decision, leaving you feeling a little unsatisfied about how to all inevitably played out.
Keanu Reeves is about as good as it gets for this kind of cold killer role with his exceptional dedication to fight scene excellence and deadpan delivery of stripped-back lines. He’s just as good in John Wick 2 as he was in the first film, but he is slightly let down by the story and direction, which don’t really allow him to stand out as well as he did the first time out.
It’s a similar story for the rest of the cast, although the balance of screen time is off too, which adds to the negatives. Ian McShane features heavily, which gives the film a fair drag, while John Leguizamo has a fleeting appearance early on and then nothing. Laurence Fishburn is a good addition to the cast as the Bowery King (pictured above), but Common seems a bit misplaced as bodyguard Cassian and Ruby Rose is far too slight to pose any conceivable threat to John.
Riccardo Scamarcio makes for a decent antagonist for the film, but the setup of his character and the way that it draws John into the plot is weak. It’s the drop in the chain that is supposed to bring the film together, but it just leaves a forced connection that could have easily been tweaked to deliver a much better overall direction.
John Wick: Chapter 2 isn’t a million miles off the pace of the first film, but it has slipped a little in the last few years. The story setup is the biggest fault, which feels a little ridiculous to pick up on considering the focus on action and fight sequences, but it does stop you from appreciating the crisp delivery of gunfights and martial arts.
Style is incredibly important to the series, but it seems like there’s too much attention on it this time around, leaving a void in substance. There’s undoubtedly going to be a sequel, and fans are going to pick up the DVD for the fight sequences along, but we’re hoping director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad can fix things for the next film in the series. However, in all fairness, the majority of other critics have been much more positive with their review scores, so maybe you’ll be more impressed too.
John Wick Chapter 2 review: 3/5