John Wick (Keanu Reeves), essentially the omnipotent god of this film universe whose nickname is appropriately “The Boogeyman,” just wants his car back. That’s all. Is it really so hard to give John Wick his car back? He’s really been through a lot. Cut him some slack.
Once he gets his car back, a movie happens.
John Wick 2 might be one of the best action sequels of all time. Not only does the film develop more of a story behind the character—without leaning on story at all—but it also adds visual layers to its up-the-ante action scenes that are downright beautiful.
Each action set piece in the film is more dazzling than the last, and none of them ever feel tired or boring. And the use of mirrors…magnificent.
Action choreography could not be more well executed. Every move has a cause-and-effect trajectory, and often the outcomes of these are whimsically (and brutally) unexpected. Whether it be with cars, fists, bullets, or blades, the action feels fresh and invigorating, something that is rare to see in the modern action movie.
John Wick and its sequel handle the action formula with a loving simplicity. There is a story, but nothing is over-complicated. It is entirely implausible in many respects, but the film never asks you to buy into a realism. It is pure action: action for action’s sake. And, dammit, it works.
The film is not pristine. It is sleek and gritty, somehow at the same time. But it also can be jarring in ways that it doesn’t need to be. Simple conversations jump all over the place, bouncing around camera setups at random, sometimes cutting over the 180 degree line. While these all feel like intentional choices meant to jar us, not every scene requires this frenetic cutting technique.
Overall, though, the film uses its camera and editor to its advantage, creating moments full of adrenaline without the need for sloppy, highly-mobile camerawork.
The film is not a work of art, but for an action film it is quite exquisite to take in. It, like its predecessor, is an action film done right. It knows its crowd and appeals to them unapologetically without abandoning good form.
John Wick: Chapter Two: A-
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)