John Wick: Chapter 2 ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

For the most part, I felt that this is exactly what you want to see in a sequel; a bigger, better experience than the (slightly) underwhelming original, John Wick 2 builds upon the base established by its predecessor and runs with it, upping the ante with a larger, more international globetrotting scale to the story, which does a good job of following up the fallout from the first while also planting the seeds for a sequel that the film itself pretty much admits is inevitable, as well as giving us a more colorful version of the mysterious underworld created in the first film, and of course, more ACTION, not just in terms of the quantity of carnage, but the sheer brutality of it as well, as things get a lot down and dirtier here, with a bigger emphasis on gore, and more visceral and intimate hand-to-hand bloodletting, which is incredibly satisfying to witness here.

The only significant complaint I had with it was with the sometimes uneven pacing, which fluctuated between slightly repetitive scenes of action and somewhat overlong scenes of, er, NON-action, as if the now solo-directing Chad Stahelski was trying to justify the gratituity of the carnage by unnecessarily stretching out the quieter moments of dialogue and plot setup inbetween. That being said, the movie is still more confidently executed than the original, with a stronger sense of personality, which goes a ways toward pulling us through the occasional lull, with more memorable and eccentric supporting characters, such as Common as a vengeful fellow assassin gunning for Wick, Ruby Rose as an icy, deaf hitwoman who communicates exclusively through sign language (giving the film more excuses to squeeze in even more comic book-style subtitles), and fellow Matrix-alum Lawrence Fishburne, reuniting with Keanu in the role of a homeless assassin king who has an entire network of "beggers" working for him throughout NYC.

And, while one could criticize the film's emphasis on faceless, disposable baddies that attack the title character in sometimes endless, predictable waves, or the way Wick's repeated use of a couple of basic moves to dispatch most of them makes him seem like a live-action video game character, there's enough visual variety, gallows humor, and memorable, punctuating (and puncturing) moments throughout to keep the movie from becoming too tiresome at any point. Besides, the gratuitousness is kind of the whole point here; like the original, John Wick 2 is sheer action movie nirvana, with no greater purpose to exist but to serve as a pure love letter to the entire genre, which it succeeds in doing very enjoyably, and truly builds John Wick up to be as mythical to us as film fans as he is to the villians he terrorizes onscreen. At one point, John says "You wanted me back... I'm back!", and all I could think in response was "Yes, we certainly did Mr. Wick, and yes... you most certainly are".

Final Score: 8.25

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