The first John Wick movie was a dark, gritty, story about revenge, heavy on gun work and with a surprising level of characterization. To top things off, when the YouTube video of Keanu Reeves doing gun training for the sequel aired, it was straight out awesome.
Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to see the sequel. And in some ways, it really doesn’t disappoint. The gunwork and action scenes are phenomenal. The choreography is fantastic, the method of John Wick’s murder spree is bloody display of art… but there’s very little of the deep motivations from the first movie.
In the first movie, John Wick is a man driven by revenge and hate. We not only see how much has been taken from him, but we see the pettiness and brutality of the men that took it away. We root for his vengeance, as an audience, and excuse the mass-murder rampage that results. It’s very much like Kill Bill, in that regard.
The second movie has none of these motivations. He’s had his revenge, he’s killed everyone in his path… and (not to spoil things, but you can guess from the fact that there is a sequel) he gets pulled right back into the life of an assassin. John Wick kills a lot of people. Most of them are presumably bad. He doesn’t have the motivation or drive to do it, he has no revenge, no anger, no justification beyond the preservation of his miserable life. In that, it feels as if the writer just didn’t really know what to do.
Spoiler (highlight to read): He does it for a sort of murky reason in that he doesn’t want to have the entire criminal underworld come after him. In fact, he kills more people in this movie than in the last, 128 versus 77 in the first one. He has his marker to justify, but the end result of him fulfilling the marker is the same as if he hadn’t… so why bother, why did all these other people have to die?)
In the end, John Wick Chapter Two fails to do what the first movie did: rise above being gun-porn. Don’t get me wrong, it does that gun-porn fantastically… but it’s ultimately a shallow movie that doesn’t have the depth of characterization of its predecessor, nor does it have the interesting plot. The villains are mono-dimensional and the lack of motivations of John Wick reduces his murderous rampage into a mass shooting event where he guns down droves of nameless mooks.
I came hoping for a story of revenge or vengeance and I walked away at the end feeling as if nothing had been resolved. The action and acting are fantastic… the story and characterization is flat. I recommend it for a popcorn movie, but it doesn’t achieve the depth of the original movie.