“John Wick Chapter 2” is a solid sequel – if you liked the first film, you should definitely see the second. If, on the other hand, you disliked the first film, chances are very good you should stay away. The dog in this film is not brutally murdered as a plot device, which definitely helps if, like this reviewer, you are an animal-lover and strongly put off by that kind of thing. It shifts the overall tone of the film enormously. That’s pretty much the only difference between the two, though.
The story starts in the middle of Wick finishing up the revenge spree from the first film – there’s no interlude of emotional storytelling. The plot is still basically John Wick (Keanu Reeves) vs. the underworld of assassins and gangs, but this time around it’s because he has a price on his head. He has very little time to let the dust settle from avenging his dog before an old associate is making demands of him. When Wick says no, and things get ugly.
The action sequences are, for the most part, exquisitely done. The hand-to-hand combat is flashy without looking fake, and if there’s some unnecessary shaky-cam wedged into an otherwise-solid chase scene, well, that can largely be overlooked. The weapon use is also solid, from grenade launchers to finely-crafted handguns. If you’re a connoisseur of action movies and are okay with grit and zero campiness, there is a lot here to like.
Folks who didn’t see the first film may well find themselves a bit confused – the overt world-building in the “John Wick” universe is pretty minimal. Everybody in the story knows all the rules and how everything works, and they don’t waste time explaining it to each other. If you don’t already know everything from the first film, you’ll need to roll with the narrative to enjoy this one.
There’s a thread of humor laced through the film (there was in the first as well, but it’s hard to enjoy if the puppy-killing has already put you off the film). Ian McShane is always delightful, and he brings his charm to bear as one of the few authority figures in the story. Reeves is his usual stone-faced self.
Ruby Rose makes yet another appearance this season (she was also in the most recent films in the “Resident Evil” and “xXx” franchises) as a deaf henchman to the film’s main villain. Her sign-language is subtitled just like the other languages in the film, and Wick understands it flawlessly, also like the other languages. It’s an interesting choice, especially given that it never comes up in the plot. It’s pretty cool to see a menacing figure signing before and while giving the hero a run for his money in the violence department.
Ultimately, if you like action movies, you’ll probably like “John Wick Chapter 2” – especially if you saw and liked the first one. If you saw the first and liked it except for the opening schmaltz-and-puppy-killing, definitely check this out. If, on the other hand, you dislike gritty, dark, mostly-serious action flicks, this is probably not for you.