The second chapter in the saga of “John Wick” is a curious beast. In many ways, it feels like the third part of a trilogy rather than the sequel to a surprise break-out hit and it’s in trying to make the leap from one hit wonder to franchise that the film loses its way.
Having avenged himself for the theft of his car and the death of his dog, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has settled back into retirement. At least, that’s his plan but when fellow assassin Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls in a favour, Wick finds himself trapped between dishonouring the debt and placing himself in the crosshairs of every assassin in the business.
Randy Meeks from the “Scream” movies would have a field day pointing out all the ways “John Wick: Chapter 2” follows the rules for threequels: it echoes the structure of the first movie but goes back and brings new information about known events. It provides Wick with a near superhuman foe which he can’t conquer unless he breaks his fundamental principles.
Returning director Chad Stahelski brings bags of style to proceedings but it’s in the substance that Chapter 2 struggles. The world building is more obvious this time around, slightly overcomplicating and convoluting things by explaining too much where the first film succeeded through hints and inferences. The action is as slick as ever but there’s a repetitiveness to it this time that quickly makes it feel stale. As adversaries go, Common is disappointingly lightweight and Ruby Rose – not for the first time – promises much but delivers very little. Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburn at least lend some gravitas to the movie but there’s a lot of effort expended to build a complicated underworld only to disassemble the infrastructure and cut Wick loose at the end.
Glossy, kinetic and stylish, it’s still a quality action movie boasting some genuinely impressive sequences (the opening action is breathtaking) but it’s hard to shake the feeling it was so busy setting up the forthcoming Chapter 3 to deliver the focus this film needed.