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Is 'John Wick: Chapter 2' better than the first?

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) - IMDbStory

Starting where the last movie left off, John returns to the life he wanted to repay a debt. After which he finds out a large bounty has been placed on his head.

One thing I really like about the John Wick franchise is the simplicity of the story. You know what the movie is about within the first 30 minutes. And because of that, you know what to expect. I know I say in reviews I like not knowing what I'm getting into but sometimes have an idea of the plot if a good thing, Not everyone is Christopher Nolan who can release a movie and no one knows what it's about. And quite frankly this is not that kind of movie.

Acting 

In my review of the first John Wick movie (which I will reference a lot, I apologise) I mentioned that John is a very stoic character and you get to see more of that in this movie. He doesn't say much but manages to say everything that he needs to at the same time. I'm quoting the movie when I say "John is a man of focus, commitment and sheer will." And that comes across with his actions rather than his words but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a personality. There are a few quippy lines but they're sparse and timed well so its fits with the scene and never takes you out of the movie.

This film has a lot of familiar faces, Ruby Rose, Common, Laurence Fishburne and they don't really do much. seeing them is cool because you stop and go "Oh look it's __." but they don't really add much to the movie. This is Keanu Reeves' movie. When you look at it the movie follows one person so it makes sense that he is the focus of the movie. When Keanu interacts with the other characters there's a natural chemistry there especially with Laurence Fishburne for obvious reasons. (It was really nice seeing them on screen together after all these years).

Writing/Direction

This movie sees the original crew coming back. Chad Stahleksi returns to the director's chair and Derek Kolstad as the writer and you can tell that they have wiggle room now. There is a bigger budget and more faith in them which allows them to tell more of a story. There is no pet murder in this movie to propel it forward. I have no idea if a sequel was planned or if it was announced after the success of the first movie but it doesn't feel like this movie was rushed. The first John Wick established that once you come back it's hard to leave and this movie doubles down on that. Something else that caught my attention was the subtle callback to and disregard of a description of John from the first movie. I won't tell you what happened but you'll know when you see it at the beginning of this movie. I thought it was a nice tongue in cheek moment.

The direction in this movie is so smooth. John Wick: Chapter 2 has a runtime of 2 hours but you honestly don't feel it. Everything happens at breakneck speed and leaves no room for downtime. From the first establishing shot, the action has you engaged from beginning to end. 

I've talked about the cinematography in this franchise before and I am going to repeat myself. Dan Laustsen much like his predecessor delivers beautiful cinematography. A lot of the third act takes palace in a museum which lends itself for a beautiful backdrop amidst the action. 
Still of Ruby Rose and Riccardo Scamarcio

You also have stunning establishing shots like this one 
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Still of Keanu Reeves 

Two moments in particular that show off the brilliant cinematography are this
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Still of Keanu Reeves
And this

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Still of Keanu Reeves and Common
The filmmakers managed to show off an array of colours all of which compliment the scene you're watching perfectly. This may be an action movie first and foremost but no other parts of it fall short.

Much like the previous movie, this was shot in single shot format and while it was done in the previous movie out of necessity, it seems to be a deliberate choice here. It allows you to see what is going on and doesn't hide behind quick cuts and shaky cam. 

Again, the stunt work is impeccable. the hand to hand scene between Keanu Reeves in New York is brilliant. Having the knowledge that the director worked as a stunt man means that he applies his years of experience into delivering stunts that not only look good but look practical and realistic. You see John gt injured and worn down as the movie goes on which reads true to what would happen in real life. 

CGI/Set Design 

The first half of the movie takes place in Rome which makes this film feel different from the first one. That one is contained within the confines of New York while this one introduces a new setting in a new country.

In my last review, I said and I quote...

" If Luca Mosca could send me all of the suits John wears throughout the movie I would be very grateful." 

and I'm going to say it again because the costume design is very sleek much like the rest of the movie. You don't see John in casual clothes and it lends itself to the world-building. The assassins in this universe are very put together and always look well dressed which is a contrast to the essay nature of their work.

Score/Soundtrack 

Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard return to compose the score. There are numerous musical cues that harken back to the first movie. While there aren't as many emotional moments as the first, the tense and thrilling aspects are made better by the score. Having different musical elements made each scene stand out.

The use of classical music in this scene only serves to make it better.


Overall Thoughts

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a great sequel. It doubles down on the insane action of the first movie with even bloodier action sequences and bigger set pieces. (On a serious note can someone please do a kill count for John Wick because people drop like flies in this movie.)  Watching the first movie felt like you were experiencing something different and this one has the solid direction, cinematography that you got in the first and more.

The filmmakers showed us more of the world that John lives in. You see how the criminal society functions, they have their own rules which are upheld by even the most ruthless assassins. Through that expansion, you learn more about John as he navigates the complex criminal underworld, as well as the consequences of some of John's actions from before the setting of the first film.

It also does a great job of setting up the next movie as it again a direct continuation and one that I'm going to watch immediately (the beauty of owning all 3).  I will say one thing though. This movie is a lot of fun and will leave you thoroughly entertained.

You can read my review of John Wick here.

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