John Wick Chapter 2: Dog days are over

Craig Watkins, Crier Staff

Style over substance is if anything an understatement of 2014’s John Wick, the shallowest action film ever made that got by, because it was also the prettiest. John Wick: Chapter 2 could have respectably done the same, but it instead trades the original’s comic-book edge for a fuller experience that improves vastly upon the seemingly untouchable original.

Now that former assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back on the radar after his rampage in the first chapter, he is forced to repay the debt that earned him his few years of peace with his late wife. This new assignment takes Wick across the globe and deeper into the franchise’s most enticing aspect: the criminal underworld operated out of the Continental Hotel. Unlike the previous film which had its goal set from the beginning, Chapter 2’s plot is very free-flowing as every step John takes lands him into more trouble than he already had, with more of his fellow assassins following him.

The insistent mutation of the plot and wide expansion of the John Wick world do come with a cost. Chapter 2 lacks the original’s momentum, breaking up the action to delve deeper into underground criminal politics. There is still plenty of complexly choreographed gunplay on display, but with the exception of a couple instances the camera seems afraid to get in close and recreate the first film’s sense of focus. This being said, John Wick can afford to lose some cinematic flair and still beat out many art films. Chapter 2’s editing also slows down from the original, but is put to exceptional use in two sequences that cut between multiple scenes at the same time to beautiful, energetic success.

The changes in style and storytelling may dishearten fans who wanted another pulse-raising frenzy like in 2014, but the sacrifice is well worth it in establishing John Wick as a dark rival to other action franchises. I could not help but notice, however, that attaining this position meant stealing more than a couple tricks from the king of assassin films: Eon’s 007 series.

Personally, I can only praise a film for borrowing from my favorite media franchise, as an arthouse Bond-style film starring Keanu Reeves is the kind of thing I dream about, but it does mean that many of John Wick: Chapter 2’s interesting features have been done before. The vehicle-heavy opening that has little to do with the rest of the film’s plot, the villain’s mysterious mute sidekick who tracks the protagonist, the oddly friendly dialogue between people who are about to kill each other, and the entire backdrop of the climactic fight have all been covered already by the world’s most famous spy in his five decades on the screen.

Despite these similarities, there is still plenty of originality on display throughout the film. The network of civilized criminals who hide in plain sight and intense gunfights that can erupt anywhere are John Wick’s most fascinating additions to the genre. What copying Chapter 2 does from other films is only critiqued as a negative because there is so little else to find flaw in.

For fans of overly elaborate action movies, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a prayer answered that descends bloody from a neon light in the sky. Even being as objective as I can, the lowest score I could possibly give this movie is 9/10.