John Wick 2 exceeds expectations

Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2 Photo by Niko Tavernise

Tyler Manning

John Wick Chapter 2 follows the story of an ex hit-man, John Wick, who gets pulled back into his old line of work through a past deal. After holding up his end of the bargain, he is betrayed and seeks to get revenge on the man who wronged him. The film stars Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, and Common and is directed by Chad Stahelski.

When going into this film, there were two things I wanted out of it: well-directed action sequences and more of the unique style from the first chapter. With that in mind, does the film live up to its predecessor? My answer: John Wick Chapter 2 was everything I could have wanted from a John Wick sequel, plus more.

So what exactly makes this film work? Well, a number of aspects: incredibly well-directed action set pieces, great sound design, beautiful cinematography, and a unique visual style. Having worked on stunts for previous films such as The Matrix and 300, Director Chad Stahelski definitely has an immense amount of skill when it comes to directing action in film. This film rarely uses the now popular method of “shaky cam” during fight scenes. Camera placements are deliberate and allow the audience to view, in awe, the well-choreographed fight scenes. The action is this movie is incredibly satisfying and almost looks like a dance in some scenes.

Another big help in how well the fight scenes are portrayed is the actors. Keanu Reeves and Common really dedicate themselves to their roles and film a larger portion of their fight scenes themselves rather than using stunt doubles. This allows the camera to see the actors reacting to the action, thus having to rely less on shaking and distorting the frame to hide the face of a would-be stunt double. It is a touch that I greatly appreciate and hope to see more actors follow suit.

Another aspect of this film that impressed me was the sound design. Guns sound absolutely incredible in this film. Each gun effect has a distinct and authentic sound and even change pitch when the film changes locations. It gives another layer to the action sequences, overall enhancing the film in a positive way. On a technical level, this film excels.

However, I do have some minor gripes. Towards the beginning of the film, I felt that it was a little too self-aware, even to the point of cringing. I can respect that fact that the film knows that it is highly anticipated and the previous film was self-aware as well, but at a certain point it became a little too campy. 

I felt the film also did not have a particularly compelling main villain. His motivation was thin and felt like he was trying to be a villain rather than a character. This is only a minor gripe considering the kind of film John Wick Chapter 2 is though. 

I cannot recommend enough that others see this film in theaters. The theater enhances the great technicality of the film, making the movie an experience. John Wick Chapter 2 is one of the better action movies in recent memory and is a worthy sequel to its predecessor. 

Rating: 8.5/10

Currently out in local theaters