John Wick: Chapter 2 (Stahelski, 2017)

Am I no fun? Because I think John Wick: Chapter 2 is just okay. Not bad, not amazing, and certainly not as good as the first film. It has all the ingredients of the first: intricately choreographed shootouts in artfully-lit settings; John taking down his opponents with lightning-fast speed and precision; blood spatter and a chorus of death groans; and those stylish hotels that serve as fronts for a mysterious underworld of assassins. But it’s missing something for me.

You see, I loved John as an avenging angel in the first film, and his smoldering rage at being violated so cruelly (poor doggo) truly made him come to life as the Bogeyman. But here he feels castrated by circumstance and pulled about too much. Fulfilling sinister blood oaths, running away from undercover killers salivating over a multimillion dollar contract for his head—it feels so passé. So dull. Bless Keanu for managing to keep up with younger and sprightlier specimens who come at him from every corner, but this one makes him look like the old man that he is. It was so exhilarating to watch him defy his age and see the adrenaline of his fury play out in John Wick. Here, it’s simply depressing watching him run around on the verge of physical collapse, all beaten and outnumbered.

Also, there’s something very Kingsman-esque about the world-building here. As if the screenwriter decided to surreptitiously cash in on that franchise by offering a similar premise of rifles and mayhem being cushioned in the plush decadence of money and sharp suits. Maybe the similarities are coincidental, yet this still feels derivative to me (and I don’t even like the Kingsman franchise). Keeping the Continental’s underworld mysterious wouldn’t have hurt the story, and it might’ve made the events of this one worth thinking over. Instead, everything is spelled out and fed to us. The wires are exposed. John Wick is but a mere blip in the larger picture, which is global in scope. How exciting.

After this, I don’t know what hopes I have for the third film. Maybe it will return to the no-nonsense, down-to-business feel of the first one, especially now that the Continental is (hopefully) out of the picture. John now has to fend for himself, with his loyal pit bull by his side. I can get behind that premise. Just cut the fluff and have it more like the first fifteen minutes of this, which—exposition aside—is what makes this franchise work. I’m not here for hammy Laurence Fishburne playing with pigeons, or thinly-drawn Italian mobsters playing evil.

Common can come back, though.