'John Wick: Chapter 2' Review Roundup: Did Keanu Reeves' Latest Trump The First?

David Cornell

The John Wick: Chapter 2 reviews are starting to come in, and the critics are surprisingly positive about it. Most of Keanu Reeves' prior films have spawned sequels which critics were less than impressed by, like Bill & Ted and The Matrix, or were so unimpressive they didn't get sequels.

John Wick, as the first movie explained, is the guy you hire to kill the boogeyman, a hit man's worst nightmare. He had been retired and ready to just live out his life with a dog his wife had left him. Then the son of a Russian gangster tried to force him to sell his car, and he refused. The bullying antagonist showed up at Wick's home, killed his dog, and stole his car. The rest was a rain of bullets and Willem Dafoe's questionable loyalty, with a soundtrack from Marilyn Manson adding a creepy vibe.

You're probably singing it to yourself right now, "We're killing strangers so we don't kill the ones that we love."

It appears that Wick has changed his mind, and is now about to tear up Rome in search of his stolen car. Much like the Marilyn Manson soundtrack, Keanu appears to be giving nods to The Matrix yet again by getting Laurence Fishburne to give him "guns. Lots of guns."

Anyone who's seen the trailers probably noticed that Keanu seems to be bordering on returning to his notorious habit of not really acting. In the first film, his emotional range by itself was a highlight, as you saw the frustration and desperation in his eyes. It appears to be fading into the look of a man who loves to kill a little too much.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says as Wick is ready to retire once more, turning down a job offered by an ambitious mobster (Riccardo Scamarcio) who wants his rival taken out, that his car gets stolen again. Wick gets yet another reason to kill lots of bad guys with the visual ease of a ballerina. He wants his car back, and nothing short of death will stop him from doing so.

John puts his dog in the care of a criminal-friendly hotel concierge, just to be sure his beloved pet doesn't end up like the first one. Then he's met with resistance by Cassian (actor/rapper Common), who has studied Wick's style and will go out of his way to stop him.

This isn't the first time Common has played the role of a villain, as in Hell on Wheels, his character had gotten mauled by a bear and suffered brain damage. This led to his friend Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) having to shoot him to stop a murderous tirade.

Indie Wire says in their John Wick 2 review that the film franchise is a lot like Mad Max, in that there doesn't need to be much of a story. The original film was written in one month as little more than an excuse to give Keanu Reeves a license to kill and relive his Matrix years. Chapter 2 basically takes the whole concept and does it again, bigger and with more flash, but never giving way to ridiculous clothing or any semblance of philosophical banter. It's just a revenge film, and those don't need much of a story.

Just ask Quentin Tarantino, who made a two-part movie with Kill Bill.

New York Daily News points out the fact that Wick's latest film does basically nothing new, delivering a re-tread of what fans have seen before, but without the revenge factor. They say that, much like the Matrix films, John Wick: Chapter 2 delivers diminishing returns after the hit original. They call this sequel "warmed over seconds" if you've already seen the first film.

NYDN says the best parts of the movie are the fight scenes between the slow, deliberate dialogue.

What do you think about John Wick 2?

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