John Wick: Chapter 2 is a worthy successor to the ball-shattering original, even if it doesn't have quite the same impact.
In 2014, John Wick, like the character himself, came out of nowhere and blew a lot of peoples' brains out with its brutal gun-fu action. It was a breakthrough for directing duo Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, who masterfully crafted a colorful action film that is exciting, tense, and fun. It was also a career-high for the already awesome Keanu Reeves, who brings the character a level of badass gravitas that makes him genuinely intimidating, but also endearing in that signature Keanu "whoa" kinda way.
Following up a home run like that is no small task, and with Chad Stahelski directing it by himself, it seemed like it could go either way. Thankfully, Chapter 2 is a properly good sequel, continuing the story in a satisfying way while expanding on all the things that made the first film so good. Picking up a few days after the events of the first film, Wick is dragged back into the assassin-ing game after a crime lord (Santino) shows up at his house to cash in on the Marker he swore Wick to. A blood oath, basically.
It's a solid setup that twists and turns over the course of two mostly relentless hours of savagery perpetuated by Keanu Reeves. The story is not quite as gleefully satisfying as the first one (world-class assassin avenges his dog), but it works the way a sequel should. The shadowy organization teased in the original plays a larger role this time around, and we dig a bit more into the neat mythology screenwriter Derek Kolstad has conjured up for this series. We learn a bit more about Wick and the people he works with, and it all happens pretty organically. There are a few slower scenes here and there, but they never pause the action to explain what's going on through clunky dialogue.
Like the first Wick, Chapter 2 is a visual feast, and is heavy on eye-catching locations that are on par with those in the first film. One of the later sequences takes place in a hall of mirrors, which I don't know how the fuck they shot, but it looks as awesome as it is disorienting. The rest of the fight scenes also deliver in abundance. They don't feel as fresh this time around, but Keanu still turns a shocking number of henchmen into bullet-ridden cadavers, and that's really all we care about.
If you liked the first Wick, there's no reason not to see the second one. The first Wick could have stood by itself, but I'm glad it found the success it deserved, because the sequel is fun, and with any luck, the final installment that it nicely sets up will also be fun. It's a solid action film elevated by its terrific production values, electric lead, and impactful fight choreography. Kick back and watch some people die violently.