John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
Never stab the devil in the back
Well, did anyone really expect this movie? I mean, sure, John Wick was a hoot and action extravaganza, but it never really cried "I need a sequel!" It pretty well wrapped itself up right then and there. Well, let's buckle our seat belts and grab on to your dog's leash, because who the heck knows what kind of ride we are in for this time around.
Plot isn't something I expected to be super strong here, and it doesn't let me down in that regard. It starts off with the man going after his car (which I'm sure plenty of us forgot he ended the last one without his) and then quickly shuffles into the Mcguffin sort of territory. See, apparently in the assassin world there's a fancy medallion called a "mark," and it's essentially the "I owe you one" that results in death if it's not handled in the affirmative when the owner comes calling. Does it work for the plot? Yes, it works - but that doesn't stop it from feeling a little lazy even after they rub the "if it wasn't for me you never would have been out in the first place" line all over it. As kinda lame as that all is though, I applaud them for at least not resulting to just killing off the other dog to get things rolling again - although it wouldn't be Wick without him being an angry little Ghost Rider, so they do have to do something to him in order to make sure he wants revenge after his contract is done.
A lot of the movie feels very much like a fancy paint by numbers - you have the car action scene, you have a shootout at a party, you have the lady threat and the ever present fame of Wick in the underworld - you even have some of the same characters come back. This could be considered less than stellar to some - hitting the same beats and all - but also returning is a lot of the more emphasized parts of the original, such as those well shot action scenes. I can't argue that those scenes aren't thrilling and well put together, most the time keeping a nice steady rolling shot that doesn't overuse cuts in a jarring fashion. It was by far the highlight of the first one, and I'm glad to see that it makes a return.
Of course, there is a little less feeling of danger for our main at this point, considering seeing how resilient he is in the first - and there isn't much here to change it. If anything, I'd argue he might seem even more untouchable - which shouldn't be taken as he doesn't ever get hurt, the guy gets beat like a dead cow around Rocky - but that you never really feel like he's going to be taken down as much as one could perceive before, where if it wasn't for the intervention of someone else he would have never gotten the chance for a sequel. There is plenty of "key" characters still to fill out the roster of rivals, with two assassin types to go along with our big baddy - and they do have some character about themselves, albeit nothing that comes off overtly as developed or anything of that sort.
Sound department keeps things balanced, and the ever driving electronic music residing in the background does a great job of fueling the action scenes or making otherwise less exciting scenes feel like they may be more exciting than they are - although it does nothing to help out the emotional impact of much of anything. Other effects all sound great as well, and help their associated effects out nicely. Those effects also paint a wonderful redden picture - although I wouldn't go as far as to say they are any better than what we had in the first. There is a moment or two where it seems that a continuity error might pop up - such as a broken windshield being normal again after a cut, or one gun seemingly having more shots than you'd think it should - but it's nothing so horrible that it breaks the entire movie because of it.
The storytelling aspect of the movie hasn't really changed at all - and I'm not talking plot at this point. World building for the first was very mysterious, until we got an exposition dump of sorts about Wick's character. World building for the second essentially just boils down to a single line about something and then moving on. How do these two know each other? Doesn't matter. Why's he owe a favor? Well, because he did something to help John out of the business. It's a lot of intentional vagueness - and it doesn't detract from the movie's excitement at all, but it doesn't help the world feel more lived.
I do suppose that although there is a lot of vagueness in here, it could work out better for the people who want to think deeper about things. Why is it that nobody in New York, for example, seems to react to a guy who got a gun peaking out of his jacket and a face that looks like it fell into a knife pit? Some of the imagery could help with this - such as a "self reflection" area that starts off with a video screen behind Wick as he enters displaying fire, giving the impression that he's getting ready to enter hell itself. Commentary on how it seems like he might just enjoy revenge a little too much to be "retired." There's enough there for people to attack if they want to, although I can't attest to how deep it's really going to go or really is meant to be dug into - for me, it's an action movie.
As an action movie, it gave me what I wanted. It didn't reuse the exact same excuse for the events as the first, it gave me well choreographed and lovely to watch action sequences. It had the same look and feel of the original, and didn't stray too much from what made the original great. On the other side of the golden coin, it doesn't add that much to the world presented in the first and it also doesn't really feel like it does that much new. The plot is washy, but the movie itself is finely crafted. Worth a watch if you enjoyed the first, but if you didn't for any reason besides the dog dying than this one isn't gonna be your cup of tea.