This will be one and a half reviews, because I didn’t start doing these until after I watched John Wick. To get everyone caught up, here’s the basic premise of the first John Wick movie. This will include spoilers for the first movie, but I’ll warn you before I get to the spoilers for the sequel.
Starring the Great Keanu Reeves, John Wick is about a retired hitman who has recently lost his wife. Her last gift to him is a dog. And he has a car. Alfie Allen, who shall now and forever be known as Theon from Game of Thrones plays… well, basically the Russian mobster version of Theon. A cocky prick who thinks he deserves everything and that nothing bad will happen to him because he’s Ironborn… err… I mean… “a Russian mobster’s son”.
After Theon decides he wants to buy Wick’s car, even though it’s not for sale, he decides to take his thug posse and not only steal the car, but beat up John Wick. And kill his dog. I think this only serves to get the audience on John Wick’s side. At this point, Theon could donate billions of dollars to help out homeless children with AIDS, and it wouldn’t matter. He killed a dog. Fuck that guy.
The rest of the movie is a basic revenge story. John Wick is known as The Boogieman in the assassin underworld. He kills like 75 henchmen until he gets to Theon and his father. Everyone but Theon knows who John Wick is and are terrified of him. Theon remains a cocky little dog killer.
Ok. So that’s the basic story of John Wick. It was uncreative in it’s narrative, but was exceptionally creative in the way it was done.John Wick is an assassin. He doesn’t miss. So the movie is like 90% headshots. It’s almost beautiful in it’s (pardon the pun) execution.
Now on to John Wick 2. I’d argue that while the novelty is missing, this is actually a better story. One of the joys from the first one is that you didn’t realize how good John Wick was at what he does. Now that we know what to expect, they had to focus on story, which was very much missing from the first one. We get a lot more world building.
John Wick 2 starts by kind of tying up loose ends from the first one, then after a few seconds of “yay I can retire again”, we get introduced to the bad guy of this movie. He wants John Wick to do something for him. John Wick declines. Bad guy blows up his house. Luckily the new dog survives this time.
So John Wick does the thing, but then the bad guy turns on him, and the rest of the movie, is John Wick killing all the henchmen until he gets to the bad guy. Pretty straight forward.
I’m not sure how long takes place between the first movie and the second. He gets his car back from the Russians, who are operating behind a Taxi front. It’s almost comical to see a fleet of taxis trying to take down our hero (and my lord and Savior). In fact, that’s one of the best parts of this movie. The “almost comical” stuff. There’s very little dialog in this movie. John Wick barely talks, but when he does, it’s his Keanu accent trying poorly to speak other languages. When speaking, it’s very abbreviated. You won’t get monologues from John Wick. Any exposition is from other people.
Like I said earlier, we get a lot of world building in this. We see more aspects of the underground hitman culture. This is cool, but by the end of it, it almost feels like everyone is a hitman. Like, literally everyone. And they laid the groundwork for another sequel on pretty thickly, which I didn’t like.
Scenes between Common (who plays hitman #34523462345234) and John Wick are pretty funny. Almost laugh out loud. But the weird thing about the comedy in this movie, aren’t punchlines, it’s absurd situations. Imagine two hitmen trying to kill each other on a crowded escalator, without anyone knowing. Normally, you’d be worried about collateral damage, but since we are talking about hitmen who don’t miss, it becomes almost hilarious.
Another part of the comical absurdity, is when John Wick has to get supplies. There’s this entire underworld where hitmen can go to get their hitmen thing. So he goes to see the “sommelier”, and it turns out that it’s to buy guns. So you’ve got two people in suits talking about “first course guns” and “dessert weapons”. It’s genius. It was one of the best scenes I’ve seen in a movie in a long time.
A large portion of this movie is John Wick taking out other hitmen. Which is why it seems like everyone in this reality are really assassins. There are still a few creative kills, but for the most part it’s you’re typical action movie. I don’t think there was a single explosion, other than John Wick’s house at the beginning. Lots of punches and kicks and bullets.
There were lots of parts of this movie that I wish they had expanded. Like, I legitimately wanted this movie to be split into two separate movies. At the same time, there were parts that went on way too long, or were unnecessary. Like when Common and John Wick are wrestling down the stairs. It clearly went towards the “so absurd, it’s funny” column, but went on for way too long.
There are kind of two endings. One, John Wick goes after the bad guy in a museum. Props to the movie makers for not including the “shoot out at the museum destroys priceless works of art” trope. Sadly, then it moves to a mirror room, which, I guess is visually interesting, but I feel like it’s been done so many times. It’s been done to death, so to speak.
Finally now that the bad guy has run out of disposable henchmen. Oh. And by the way, what was with the mirror room henchmen all looking the same? All big dudes with beards and man buns. Anyway, bad guy is all alone, so he hides in a refuge for the underworld hitmen. John Wick follows him there and breaks their sacred rule of not doing business on property.
So now he’s been excommunicated by the underworld. He can’t use any of their cool shops. He can’t use their magic gold coins. He’s alone. And the underground has put a huge bounty on John Wick’s head. He’s got no home. He’s got no where to hide. The underground is international. End Credits.
It’s clearly setting up a sequel, but that part should have been in the next movie. Just like this movie started by finishing up the last movie. So pacing was a little off. There were a ton of new characters used solely for the purpose of showing you that literally everyone is an assassin. The homeless I hate? They could be assassins. That women with the stroller? She’s an assassin. Those joggers? Yeah. They’re clearly assassins. I guess, that could be more “so absurd, it’s funny” stuff.
All in all, this had a far better story, with less novelty. Visually, it was pretty much the same as you would expect if you saw the first one. “Uh oh. The techno music is ramping up. *headshot headshot headshot headshot headshot gut punch headshot*” The timing was all over the place. The acting was… we’ll, it’s Keanu Reeves. That said, he is so perfect for this role.
I give it an automatic 3 stars for having the Great Keanu in it, and bump it up to 4 out of 5 stars simply because I’m actually excited to see where this franchise goes.