Five Years Later: John Wick Chapter 2
The sequel's world-building remains the series' best...
John Wick: Chapter 2 invites its audience back into its world of modern-day assassins, expanding on both its story and world in ingenious ways. Keanu Reeves returns to give a breathtaking performance, again performing the majority of the stunts himself. All of these factors come together to form a crowd-pleasing second chapter that has since had its potential somewhat wasted with Chapter 3.
There is so much to praise about Chapter 2 that it’s hard to know where to begin. The best place to start would be with its world-building. In the first film, a modest world of assassins was introduced, complete with a base of operations, its own cleaners and a unique system of punishment, in the form of “Excommunicado”. The second film expands this with natural inclusions to ones with a twisted humour, yet all fit in the same world. They also help to drive the narrative and help to pull the focus away from the violence, which makes it more than a lore exercise.
The chief method of expansion can be seen in the form of a marker. The film makes it clear from its opening credits that this will be a key part in the narrative, and sets up a promise that subsequent instalments have yet to deliver on. It’s used to kickstart the action, which has only improved since the first film, mixing in brutal close combat with its gunplay.
The choreography turns the gunplay into a deadly dance between assassins
Reeves continues to demonstrate that his old age doesn’t hold him back, this time spending four months in preparation for this film, learning Japanese and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well as the associated gun play. The entire stunt crew have made a clear effort to learn their craft, which allows the camera to shoot steadier takes, and not devolve into using shaky cam to hide any mistakes. It also means that Stahelski has more control in the edit, which is important for the scene’s focus. The action is frenetic yet controlled, and the choreography turns the gunplay into a deadly dance between assassins.
The side characters and villains have improved since the first film, and still surpass the third. The one that deserves the most praise is Cassian, played by rapper and actor Common. In just a few minutes of screen time, he establishes himself as an equal to Wick and someone who is able to hold his own in a fight. The film smartly leaves his fate unknown, but this something that the third film again drops the ball with, instead creating new characters that don’t have the same charm. Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) is not a fighter like John, but instead a scheming snake, using the rules to his unfair advantage. He leaves a lasting impact on the franchise, forcing John to make meaningful and difficult choices that have an immediate impact. D’Antonio fundamentally changes John’s situation for the worse, making his appearance memorable, which is something that the third film doesn’t have.
Finally, a point should be focused on the ending. It clearly sets a direction for where the sequel is headed, something which franchises can often struggle with, including the third film in this franchise. However, the franchise hasn’t lost its style when delivering its action, which means that when the fourth chapter does (finally) get released in 2023, audiences will be able to return to the world of John Wick that has been so well crafted.
Did you know? Potential crossovers with the action-thriller films Atomic Blonde and Nobody have been considered for the John Wick franchise.