HOLLYWOOD—It was a surprise sleeper at the box-office in 2014. Yup, Keanu Reeves returned to his action roots with the film “John Wick” about a retired assassin who is forced to come out of retirement after his vintage 1969 Mustang is stolen and the puppy given to him by his terminally ill wife is killed. The success of that flick ultimately led to its sequel “John Wick: Chapter 2.”
So is the sequel bigger and better than its predecessor? To some degrees yes. It’s not 100 percent perfect, but it understands the rules of sequel: bigger, bolder and more explosive. Take note to other filmmakers, if you want to see how to immerse the audience into a movie right-away, the opening sequence of the “John Wick: Chapter 2” is a thrill-a-minute. Reeves aptly fits the role of a specialized-killing machine, and the way that he dispatches of (let me guess) 20 plus people who are driven to take him out is epic.
Now, I will pinpoint that after the first 12-20 minutes of the film, I got slightly bored for about 20 minutes, before the action ramped back up. I get this is an action movie, but the attempt of screenwriter Derek Kolstad to establish a bit of a narrative slows the pacing in my opinion. The reason the first flick worked so well was the fact that the movie did not take itself too seriously. It was an action-flick about an assassin brought out of retirement and forced to fight for his life. It’s that simple. Unless you have a narrative that is going to blow the spectator’s socks off, stick to the norm please.
After that minor hurdle, the action re-establishes itself as John makes it his mission to track down Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) who blew up his home. John is placed in a tricky situation because if he murders Santino he breaks a cardinal rule of the underworld that makes him a massive target. John’s decision to adhere to an agreement made in the past put him at the mercy of several mercenaries including Cassian (Common), Ares (Ruby Rose) and Gianna D’Antonio (Claudia Gerini).
While some has praised the role of rapper/actor Common, it’s not that far of a stretch to the character he played in the Liam Neeson thriller “Run All Night.” However, I was impressed with the Rose’s character, who is mute, but finds a way to kick some serious a** along the way. For those “Matrix” fans they will be happy about the appearance of Morpheus himself, Laurence Fishburne, as a face from John’s past who helps him locate the enemy.
The banter between the two is fun, but would have been even more poignant if they had more time together on the screen. “John Wick: Chapter 2” is a fun ride that sets the stage for what is certain to be a third installment in the franchise. Rather the next installment can improve upon the hiccups in the second chapter is up for debate.