The original 2014 film John Wick was something of a sleeper hit, a seemingly unremarkable action thriller that found a bigger audience than expected due to a commendable commitment to old-school action and a concerted attempt to push the visual impact of its genre (which came as quite a surprise as its director Chad Stahelski had mainly been previously employed as Keanu Reeves’ stunt double). This sequel takes everything that was pleasantly unexpected from its predecessor and doesn’t so much run with it as drive it through a wall out the side of a building. It’s a brutally violent, amazingly choreographed spectacle, one of the simplest but also very clearly one of the most beautiful action films ever made.

It’s almost comical how the director’s stunt background shows up the pedestrian approach of so many of his peers – the action sequences here are simply some of the best Hollywood cinema has ever seen, balletic operas of violence that combine wincing impact with an ever-present sly wit and a commitment to aesthetics that the genre has rarely seen. Every set-piece is simply stunningly lit and shot – the use of colour and composition here shows that Stahelski is by no means a simple action meathead. Indeed, its climactic sequence – set in an art exhibit (hilariously called “Reflections on the Soul”) featuring LED screens and halls of mirrors – may well rank amongst one of the best-looking action scenes ever filmed.

Perhaps as a necessity to stop its violence leaving a bad taste in the mouth, it’s also consistently and quite deliberately comedic. From general points about its overall premise (the entire “plot” seems to predicate on the idea that almost everyone in New York is a hitman, from the buskers to the homeless people to random sumo wrestlers) to frequent small moments that keep things witty (Reeves and hip hop star Common try to shoot each other with silencers in a crowded train station without letting anyone notice; Laurence Fishburne turns up and practically winks at the audience over his famous previous Keanu collaboration). This all adds up to a genuinely exhilarating, visceral experience – completely stupid but just as complete a piece of entertainment as you could wish for.

Everything that was kinda cool about the first one, ramped up another notch or five9
Some of the most inventively choreographed and beautifully shot action scenes you're likely to have ever seen10
The consistently striking use of lighting, and the overall commitment to visual style in every single scene10
The hall of mirrors / art exhibit finale set piece10
Plot, acting, subtext - all the other stuff that "good" films are supposed to provide4
Bechdel Test passes
  • Features more than one named female character
Bechdel test failures
  • I'm pretty sure none of the female characters ever talk to each other
9Overall Score

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