“John Wick Chapter 2” is thrillingly serialized so make sure you see the first one before heading into a theater. You’ll still probably be able to follow this movie—obviously, most scenes work on a visceral level and there’s not much to “get” about a guy killing his way out of a room—but the world-building is a big part of what makes the John Wick series original.
What Works: John Wick is the most exciting action series since the original Jason Bourne series, and for those of us who feel that way “Chapter 2” delivers a bigger dose of what we enjoyed about the first movie: adding to this crazy world of assassins, older actors savoring cool roles (Laurence Fishburn joins the fun as the king of a homeless network), Ian McShane’s bourbon-smooth badassery, and memorable shootout sequences that dial-down the CGI in favor of brutal, Buster-Keaton-meets-Charles-Brosnan action duels. And the movie ends on a perfectly adrenalized note that is the best movie cliffhanger in ages. [A man behind me literally said “Damn, how long until part three comes out?”]
What Doesn’t: Certain sequences (like the Peter Stormare sit down at the beginning) flirt with self-parody. “John Wick” the series may be outrageous in its action, but the character in the first movie never did anything that was too unbelievable.
What I Would’ve Done Differently: This film isn’t really that much more memorable than the first one, but its ending does such a great job that it feels more memorable. You head out of the theater excited to see the next one, and I can’t say that about the overwhelming majority of movie series.