It’s not a little known fact that sequels are rarely better, or even nearly as good, as the original. Original films are so fresh, exciting, and take you to new worlds you’ve never seen before. Sequels usually just tread old ground, sometimes even shamelessly remaking the first film (I’m looking at you, The Hangover Part II). You don’t want to do something too different, though, because it’s, you know, a sequel. It’s a fine line. If you’re going to do a sequel, I think it’s best to expand on the elements that worked before, and improve on the ones that maybe didn’t work for a lot of people.

In John Wick: Chapter 2, Keanu Reeves returns as our stylish assassin, fresh back into retirement after getting his revenge and retrieving his precious car. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for us!), crime lord Santino D’Antonio stops by for a visit. Wick previously made a blood oath with D’Antonio to get out of the business for good, and he’s now requesting his obligated help from Wick. He requests Wick to assassinate his sister, so he can take her seat at a counsel of high crime lords, to which Wick refuses. After some explosive persuasion, Wick takes on the task and, oh boy, it’s back to killing again.

This is a sequel that does everything absolutely right. Every single aspect from the first John Wick, whether it’s the action, or the plot, is improved upon. Did you think John Wick’s character was a little thin last time? You’ll be happy that they give him a bit more depth, without sacrificing his mystique. Had qualms with the simplistic storyline? Then enjoy this more complicated crime tale with many unexpected twists and turns throughout. Director Chad Stahelski and screenwriter Derek Kolstad clearly took a lot of care with the screenplay, trying to do something even more different than last time. It feels like it’s expanding on this universe and taking the story to interesting places. It’s just hard to see if they can go anywhere but down from here, especially without getting too silly with the overall concept.

But hey, if the next one has the action we come for, then it should awesome. However, it is impossible for me to fathom that they can go any higher in the action department either. This is hand-to-hand combat combined with gunplay at its absolute best, folks. Keanu Reeves’ intense dedication to the role shows in every scene, whether he’s killing people, or not. The way he effortlessly shoots somebody in the head, grapples another person to the ground with his legs, and then shoots three more people from afar is simply magical. The editing and camerawork is just as tight as before, capturing the impressive stunt work and endlessly creative choreography. It never ceased to put a huge, silly grin on my face. Although Reeves’ has sometimes awkward delivery, he nails the dramatic scenes, too, turning in an emotionally intense performance. As exciting as it is to watch him shoot people in the face, you really feel his pain and want to see him find his peace. Really, though, it’s when he’s blowing people’s heads off with a shotgun where he really shines.

Wick doesn’t have a character arc again, and his past is still kept secret, which continues to work to this series’ advantage. They delve more into the man he is now and why he almost has this sort of destiny to work in this criminal underworld. With the filmmakers knowing they filled their dog killing quota, they knew they had to explore the character a bit deeper in order to maintain an emotional investment. Using the criminal underworld to explore these themes was a terrific touch, especially since it greatly expands upon the very intriguing organization from the first film. We get greater insight into the how this massive organization works and the rules they go by, giving our story a much broader scope this time. There are even more colorful supporting characters around, featuring an old hitman colleague, a sassy mute bodyguard, a dastardly devil of a villain, and a fun little cameo from Laurence Fishburne himself. Every progression from the last film feels completely natural here.

Look, I can full admit that I may just be a victim of hype and recency bias here, and opinions may change, but I think John Wick: Chapter 2 is the definition of a perfect sequel. It improves on every single aspect from the first, but more importantly, it doesn’t feel like a retread. It feels like a logical continuation of the story. While there are some callbacks to the original, they feel very natural in the universe this film takes place. The filmmakers took their fantastic original material and improved on every which way possible. Like its predecessor, I think it’s one of the finest action films of the 21st century. Yeah… I’m thinking he’s back!


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