John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) Cover

John Wick: Chapter 2 is going to be a divisive work, partly because it’s a good sequel. How you receive this film will depend a lot on what you were looking for in a followup. Fans looking for more of the clever, fast paced, and brutal action of John Wick will get that. Those excited about the mythology will find a breadth of new world building. Chapter 2 will disappoint those, like me, looking for a story with something to say, but not because it isn’t good.

For the first two types of viewers, you don’t need to read more. The movie gives you exactly what you want and more. The action is frantic and visceral. There are creative over the top encounters in unique and visually striking locations. The universe gets substantial depth and expansion. The Hotel introduces new rules, and the powers that move the world gain personality. If either of those things was all you wanted, then go see this movie. This movie was so satisfying on those levels that the entire theater I watched it with sat silent for the full duration of the film.

For the those to whom felt that the story was important, keep reading.

There’s a pretty well circulated opinion that John Wick doesn’t have very much to say. Advocates of this idea feel that the core value of the original is the well executed visceral action. I do not agree with this. A depth of intelligence and thoughtfulness dwells beneath the surface of this franchise.

John Wick’s characters, narrative, and world building suggest a playful wit. The action flourishes with a wink and a nod as it implies that it doesn’t matter what the story is about. This is because at its heart, the idea of the story is that John has an incurable lust for violence. The gag of the first movie is about how thin the plot is, but that’s also part of its soul. Killing so many people over the personal wrongs done are deeply damaging to society. It’s a sophomoric indulgence in the fantastical revenge that many wish for.

The main purpose for Chapter 2 seems to be to remove any remaining sense of reason for John’s actions. Everything he does gets robbed of meaning from beginning to end. He gets everything he wants, but in a way that makes it feel like ash in the mouth of the viewer. Every important kill in the movie robs us of satisfaction from the event. To discuss this further would spoil the story, so I can’t go beyond that. By the end of the movie, though, I felt as though the plot had gone in a terrible circle. It ends right where it begins, on the precipice of more terrible escalating violence and no way out.

As the story unfolds, the central plot to the film mirrors itself in scene after scene. It’s so purposeful that I have to give the film credit for being deliberately disappointing. Since the first movie did imply that the violence was empty, there is a question of whether or not it was necessary to re-emphasize this. For the thoughtful viewer, we’re shown how empty what we’re being provided with is all over again. Chapter 2 does this so much better than the origninal, though, that it is palpably haunting to experience.

Those paying attention to the original John Wick would notice the same themes. Chapter 2 goes so far with them that it robs the experience of satisfaction. This is going to bother viewers, but after digesting it for a while, I realize I liked it.

John Wick is the type of movie I worried about a sequel for. I didn’t want more of the same. What made the original so great was that there aren’t a lot of movies like it. Especially ones that are also well thought out. Be prepared to feel let down if you’re that type of viewer. But in a way that makes you think more about what you’ve watched.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a fascinating film that satisfies on multiple levels. You may be one of the viewers who feels hollow after watching it. But there are some kinds of emptiness that stick with you and make you keep thinking about what you’ve just experienced. That’s a type of vaccuum I can live with.

Final Verdict:A fast paced thrill ride that is smarter than it needs to be.