For every Die Hard with A Vengeance, there will always be a Batman & Robin. Sometimes, sequels miss the essence of the film's that birthed them; they're hollow, often with more spectacle and less heart. John Wick 2 is the former. The first movie was a big surprise. It was awesomely choreographed, held an heir of mystery around the gold-coins-for-currency assassin's community, and was a pretty well-rounded spectacle. Although, the story was a bit flimsy. I mean, someone murders John's dog and he loses his shit. That's the entire premise of the film. While the plot was pretty standard, there was clearly a lot more going on in the corners of the screen, so to speak, regarding the world-building based on the assassin's community John belongs to. I won't spoil plot elements in this review, so read and enjoy this spoiler-free look back.
With that said, John Wick: Chapter Two blows the doors wide open to the world of assassin's, mercy killing, and vengeance. Where the first film began to feel flat with the heavy focus on choreography and light story elements, Chapter Two changes the direction of the entire narrative structure of the John Wick film series. I've no doubt a third installment will be soon on it's way, if for only one reason: Keanu Reeves looks best when he's murdering and slashing in CQC (close-quarters combat).
I mean, there's a lot more to this film than just CQC, gunplay, and fancy choreography. But, the scope of practice and rehearsal from all involved in filming seems truly immense. Keanu takes a tumble down a flight of stairs at one point in the film, and I'm fairly positive he did that stunt. I know CG is getting to a place where it's easier to fake that kind of thing, but I know Keanu to be a pretty badass dude, and I bought the fall, even if it really wasn't him.
The choreography paired well with breathable, expansive cinematography and editing made the film supremely exciting. When I say "breathable cinematography", I mean to say the filmmakers didn't shortchange or cheat the choreography by filming tight, telephoto shots, or edited everything on a punch. Falls, knocks, stabs, gunplay and punches were breathed out by longer takes, and the hundreds of stunts choreographed felt real, and even scary, at times.
The elements of plot that felt thin in the first film were given new room to elbow their way into the narrative. There's a larger understanding of the culture of assassin's found in the first film, and you're given enough to sate your first-film questions, all the while being proposed a new bunch of questions for the inevitable third film.
This kind of film is the best of sequelism in Hollywood. This film improved upon everything lacking in the first film, story and plot-wise. The cinematography is amazing, as well as the neo-noir lighting and choreography. I haven't been so excited for fight and stunt choreography since I watched the Ong-Bak: Thai Warrior stairwell scene.
I don't give films a numerical rating. Giving any film a numerical rating feels like a bit of a cheat as a filmmaker, myself. This movie is highly watchable. I'll be seeing it several more times based on fight choreography and the expanded story. While I liked the first film and thought it super cool that John killed 67 people from start to finish, this movie feels much more like a developed film world, a more well-baked plan with all the same righteously cool sh*t that I loved from the first movie.