The first film in the John Wick universe came out in September 2014, which it means it had been approximately 30 months since I had started to ignore the Keanu Reeves vehicle with a “B” CinemaScore.
But then John Wick: Chapter 2 was set to open last Friday and I couldn’t escape it. Not from its marketing ambush that flooded every TV channel or website that I read. Not from my roommates assertions that the first was “a rare action gem.” For the entire month of January, I was consumed by the targeted marketing messaging that was John Wick: Chapter 2.
So I did what anyone would do: I caved in to the pressure – much like the heads that meet the business end of one of John Wick’s many weapons. I bought opening night tickets to Chapter 2 and scheduled 90 minutes the day prior for the original.
The John Wick’s are not typically my speed: violent, bloody, monotone. But the first one was nothing short of a well-crafted joy ride through The Boogeyman’s hit list. The choreography of the action sequences is amazing and I found myself irrationally obsessed with the idea of a secret and moral society of hitmen headquartered in New York’s flatiron building – called “The Continental” in the series.
My mind open, I was ready for the second one to wow me.
And it did. Sometimes. But mostly it felt like there was something missing, something not quite right, something out of sync with the first.
It wasn’t what the movie was trying to be. I was exhausted by what the movie was.
Chapter 2 shares quite a bit with its predecessor – mostly it’s just an onslaught of assholes who think they can kill John Wick – while taking us to Europe and introducing us to what a fight between Keanu Reeves and Common would look like. And the action sequences are impressive!
It’s not that those sequences, it’s that they’re repetitive that kills me. To be fair, there’s a 10 minute sequence set in a hall of mirrors that deserves all the visual Oscars it won’t be nominated for, but the fighting and killing feels less inspired.
Yes, he kills two people with a pencil (a call back to a running legend about Wick’s past exploits), but mostly we’re given the same death sequences ad nauseam: Wick wraps a first baddie in some kind of arm bar, a second baddie runs in, get’s a bullet to the knee or lower leg and doubles over in pain. A third baddie takes a bullet to the brain. Wick spins to double tap the poor guy with a bullet in his ACL before finishing the guy he’s got on the ground like he’s peak-Ronda Rousey. I must have watched that same scenario unfold six or seven separate times in Chapter 2’s 120 minute run-time. For me, it was just too many. For a series that had come up with hundreds of imaginative ways to end a life I felt cheated.
Otherwise, Chapter 2 delivered exactly what it promised. Bodies.
It introduces us to a whole new side of the hitman underworld and leaves the audience hanging for the next chapter (rather than giving us the true emotional payoff we deserved). We also learn that Common doesn’t drink his gin straight and both John Wick and I drink the same bourbon.
Long live The Boogeyman.