There’s certainly lots of stylish, R-rated action to be found in John Wick 2, but I couldn’t help but feel that not enough of anything particularly new was brought to the table, and I objected to the needless world-building and franchise-leaning aspects of the script by original creator Derek Kolstad. The first film’s co-director Chad Stahleski is back but on the solo tip this time, and the results are more or less in line with the first entry on a technical level; it looks great and lots of people are shot in the head with digital blood spurts. Keanu Reeves is clearly having a ball with this new character, and he glowers his way through the proceedings with more of a tongue in cheek attitude than the first film afforded; it’s almost as if everyone’s in on the joke and just having some ridiculous fun.
John Wick 2 doesn’t have the same emotionally manipulative pull that John Wick did, but how could it? The doubling up of a dead wife and murdered dog is just too juicy and rife with easily digestible themes that allowed the explosive action to have meaning behind it all. Here, it’s just a lot of beautifully lensed action set pieces (Dan Lausten is the crafty cinematographer) with everyone in the wink-wink cast delivering their lines with ironic aplomb. I just didn’t grasp the “rules” that this movie is living by (I found all of that silly rather than involving), and again, it all just felt like random bits of leftovers from the first film, with an open-ended sense of threequel baiting at the finish.
Interesting to note that Stahleski was Brandon Lee’s stunt double on The Crow, and after Lee’s tragic on-set death, was the stunt performer tasked with completing the final shots, only to have CGI face replacement finish the rest. Oh, and yes, it was definitely fun to see Neo reunited with Morpheus. But enough already with the purely CGI blood-hits (what happened to old-fashioned squibs?!) and to be honest, unless the action is further expanded upon or the next film returns to the more pulpy origins of the first, I’m all set with this series moving forward.
Review by Nick Clement
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