Movie Review: “John Wick: Chapter 2”
John Wick: Chapter 2
His wife is dead, his dog is dead, and he has exacted his revenge. Now it is time for him to get out of the assassin business once and for all, but John Wick quickly learns that he has opened a jar that will not be so easy to close. Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), an old acquaintance, has reached out to John Wick, asking for him to repay a blood debt. In the assassin community, a blood debt is when one party does a favor for an assassin. The assassin then owes the person a favor.
In return for the favor, the assassin gives the party a token. This token may be redeemed at anytime, and can be redeemed to do anything (no matter how difficult) that the person desires. Should the assassin refuse, they are breaking a vow that is severely frowned upon in the assassin community and is punishable by death. John Wick just wants to retire in peace, but quickly finds himself in Rome with a massive bounty on his head. John Wick is on a mission to clear his name, but must defend himself against countless reputable assassins who hope to collect the bounty on his life.
The Pros & Cons
The Action (+10pts)
The Plot (-3pts)
Ian McShane (+4pts)
John Wick (-3pts)
Ruby Rose (+3pts)
The Stakes (-3pts)
Pro: The Action (+10pts)
Much like its predecessor, the action in John Wick: Chapter 2 was outstanding. The plot of the movie set countless assassins against John Wick, while John had a violent mission of his own. The result was John Wick slaughtering legions of baddies. There was ton awesome action in this movie, and there were a number of moments that were unexpectedly brutal and massively entertaining.
The pencil moment was fantastic (you will know it when you see it), but what stuck with me was the way that the filmmakers showed John Wick taking down multiple assailants at once. These scenes were just really cool to watch. The action scenes were great and were choreographed masterfully. Having so much action in any movie can easily start to make the action feel over-saturated and redundant, but there were plenty of unique action moments to keep me engaged. Too many filmmakers also utilize shaky cam to hide how little effort was put into their film’s action. With John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 the filmmakers put in the necessary effort to perfect the action, and it resulted in two movies with excellent action.
Con: The Plot (-3pts)
It unfortunately seemed like the filmmakers focused on delivering great action, but they phoned it in when it came to the plot. John Wick pulled audiences into the main character’s revenge story. Sure, the filmmakers used the easiest way to do this by having a puppy get killed, but the result was a movie where audiences sympathized with the main character, had an emotional connection to his pain, and wanted to see him exact brutal, violent justice on the people responsible. It was a simple plot, but audiences were invested in it. Unfortunately, with John Wick: Chapter 2, the filmmakers lost sight of delivering an impactful plot.
We got a plot where the main character was reluctantly pulled into a mission, and he really had nothing to lose. We are supposed to be invested in the mission in a movie like this. With this movie, John Wick did not really care about the mission that he was on. He is just going through the motions. Ironically, this was an unintentional metaphor of how the filmmakers treated the plot; the filmmakers did not really care about the mission, and they were just going through the motions like John Wick was. How were we, as an audience, supposed to care about the plot if the main character, and the filmmakers did not? While the action was fantastic, the plot connecting the action scenes was generic and lacked the weight that was necessary to get the audience truly invested in it.
Pro: Ian McShane (+4pts)
Ian McShane has a way of always playing his characters in a captivating way. I honestly do not know exactly what it is, but I am always more interested when he is on screen. John Wick: Chapter 2 was no different. In this movie, Ian McShane played Winston who was an acquaintance and mentor to John Wick, and he always had an air of mystery about him.
As an audience, we never really knew where this character’s allegiances were, but he usually ended up on John Wick’s side. The character was important as he explained the Continental hotel, blood debts, and other relevant parts of the movie. I always got the impression that this character was powerful, and very much in control, although he did not let the other characters know it. This was a mysterious character played by a captivating actor, but the filmmakers unfortunately did not use him a whole lot in this movie.
Con: John Wick (-3pts)
One of my favorite parts of the previous movie, was something that many other fans loved too. John Wick was a feared man in the assassin and criminal community. Did every single criminal know who John Wick was? No, but those who did definitely did not want to be on his bad side. This created a very unique tone in the first movie, because the powerful antagonists feared the protagonist. There was nothing they could do to stop him from coming for them, and they knew it. With John Wick: Chapter 2 the filmmakers threw that concept out the window.
It seemed that every assassin wanted a piece of John Wick. Sure, I get that he had a massive bounty on his head, but in the last movie, no one in their right mind would have gone after him (it would not have mattered what the price was). I am all for filmmakers switching up the tone between movies, but there was no justifiable reason for why John Wick no longer instilled fear in the criminal community. There was no explanation, or reason, as to why John Wick’s reputation was lost, and this made it feel like lazy writing. It was no longer convenient for John Wick to be “The Boogeyman” so the writers ditched that concept.
Pro: Ruby Rose (+3pts)
I will make this point short and sweet, but Ruby Rose’s presence was worth mentioning. The character did not do a whole lot in the movie, but Ruby Rose had a great screen presence, which made this character feel like a believable threat. Again, the character did not do much to justify this, but Ruby Rose was able to make her character feel that way regardless. It was just nice to have at least one antagonist that felt like more than a nameless, faceless goon for John Wick to kill.
Con: The Stakes (-3pts)
I have already touched on this topic while explaining my issues with the plot, but my problem with the stakes in this movie was that there were not any. It is just that there was nothing to get the audience invested in John’s mission. Furthermore, there was nothing to motivate John Wick in this movie, so it was hard to get behind the brutal nature in which he slaughtered countless baddies. In the last movie, the character was enraged by the unnecessary killing of the puppy that his late wife left him. It made sense that John Wick would be brutal and show little mercy to those responsible.
In this movie, John Wick was reluctant to begin with, and quite literally had nothing to lose, but he killed his enemies in the same brutal way that he did in the last movie, which sort of diminished the rage that he supposedly felt in the last movie. I understand that it was hard to try and find equal motivation for this story, but the filmmakers had an opportunity to dial down the rage and add clever action, as opposed to non-stop brutal action. Instead, they made John Wick equally brutal to how he was in the last movie, but he did so in this movie without cause, which made the puppy’s death in the first movie lose impact, because now we know that John Wick would have been just as ruthless whether the dog had died or not.
Grade: B- (83pts)
I thought that the highly anticipated sequel to John Wick fell a little short of recapturing the magic from the first movie. Yes, the action was great, and well choreographed, but it was lacking the emotional weight that the first one had. I did not expect this movie to have a deep, thought provoking plot. Unfortunately, I thought the writers of the movie did a poor job of motivating John Wick. He did not really care about what he was doing, so it was hard for me to care about it as well.
John Wick had a simple plot of revenge over the death of the main character’s puppy. It was a very simple plot, but it was great because it struck a chord with the audience. John Wick: Chapter 2 did not have that, and to make things worse the filmmakers threw away the concept of fear that other characters had toward the titular character. No one feared John Wick anymore, and there was no explanation as to why. Fortunately, this was an action movie. As such, the plot is not incredibly important. What is important is the action, and the action in this movie was as great as it was in the last movie. In that regard, this was a decent follow-up to John Wick.