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Here's What Critics Are Saying About John Wick: Chapter 2

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A version of this article originally appeared on ew.com.

Yeah, he’s thinking he’s back. A few years after Keanu Reeves re-asserted himself as an action star with 2014’s high-octane revenge thriller John Wick, he’s back for a second round. As far as most critics are concerned, Reeves (and the returning duo of director Chad Stahelski and screenwriter Derek Kolstad) stuck the landing with John Wick: Chapter 2, expanding on both the first film’s mythology and its body count. Sure seems like we have a new franchise on our hands.

EW’s Chris Nashawaty gave the film a B+, celebrating both the high and low: Reeves’ performance as “a haunted (and largely speechless) ronin living by the 21st-century code of the samurai” and the accompanying “tire-squealing car chases, countless point-blank kills, and scenic bone-crunching brawls in Rome’s ancient catacombs.”

Read more of Nashawaty’s thoughts, as well as a selection of other reviews, below.

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“The biggest compliment I can think to pay John Wick: Chapter 2 is that I lost track of the body count within the first 15 minutes. If that sounds like high praise to you, too, then you will absolutely dig Keanu Reeves’ gratuitously crunchy ode to choreographed ultraviolence via the bullet, the bare knuckle, and the everyday No. 2 pencil.”

Justin Lowe (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Reeves is back in fine form, confirming how indispensable he is to the franchise with his lithe physicality, no-nonsense demeanor and impressive skillset, as he again performs many of his own driving and martial arts stunts. Returning screenwriter Derek Kolstad reaffirms the appealing ingenuity of his highly memorable lead character, whose clear motivations for underworld score-settling are both relatable and rootable. Once again, Reeves does not disappoint, fully inhabiting Wick by channeling his rage over life’s injustices into an intensely focused performance.”

Scott Mendelson (Forbes)
“Summit and Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 2 gives us exactly what it promises and exactly what we want, for (mostly) better or for worse. It’s a little light on actual story and takes awhile to get on its feet, but it successfully expands the mythology and dives headfirst into the criminal underworld which existed on the fringes of the first film. You might have to turn off your moral compass this time around, at least more so than last time, but the picture does eventually become a glorious ballet of horrifically violent gun battles and fight scenes, all staged for maximum clarity and creativity.”

Eric Kohn (IndieWire)
“Much about John Wick: Chapter 2 looks and sounds like the previous installment, from John’s moody exchanges with Winston (Ian McShane), head of the hitman network The Continental, to his cryptic interactions with The Continental’s mysterious concierge (Lance Reddick). But this movie has a more expansive playing field, veering from one elaborate sequence to the next with a noticeable uptick in confidence. As exaggerated action cinema goes, it never quite gets to the level of Kill Bill Volume 2, but by avoiding plot distractions in favor of exuberant style, it’s more consistently satisfying than The Raid 2. Stahelski excels at delivering a strain of violent fight movie in which each element contributes (over and over again, sometimes too repetitively and elsewhere just repetitively enough) to a symphony of mayhem.”

Peter Debruge (Variety)
“The John Wick movies accomplish what Hong Kong action flicks did a quarter-century ago, seducing bloodthirsty (predominately male) audiences into appreciating an exquisitely choreographed modern ballet. If you doubt that Stahelski sees his own job in these terms, look no further than how he lights each scene: Even neon demon Nicolas Winding Refn must be taking notes at the way Stahelski and his crew place bright-fuchsia fluorescent tubes in a New York subway, poltergeist-blue spotlights beneath the arches of ancient Roman catacombs, and nightclub-worthy accents throughout an elaborate hall of mirrors art exhibit.”

Robert Abele (The Wrap)
“The second hour of Chapter 2 — save a mildly amusing Matrix reunion with a theatrical Laurence Fishburne as the subterranean leader of a cadre of hobo killers — is primarily an exhilarating gauntlet of martial arts/gun-fu assault, climaxing in a museum showdown inside a Welles-ian hall of mirrors. But these are the musical numbers we’ve been waiting for, mapped out in long, economically filmed takes of ferocious close-quarters fighting and firing that Reeves performs with a soulfully mean élan you could trace back to Lee Marvin’s heyday. The filmmakers know when to lace in genre-tweaking humor, too, as when Reeves and Common are on different levels of a crowded public concourse, nonchalantly poking guns out of their coats and squeezing off shots at each other that nobody else notices.”

Chris Hewitt (Empire)
“And when the brutality (there are more headshots here than on a casting director’s desk) threatens to overwhelm, Stahelski leavens the tone with traces of sly humor. You’ll smile at Laurence Fishburne’s knowing cameo, making this a Matrix reunion. You’ll laugh at a sequence where Wick and one rival take sly silenced potshots at each other in a crowded public area, like kids playing cops and robbers with their fingers. And striding through it all like a coutured colossus is Reeves. Keanu famously means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian. Here it should stand for “cool beard shoots you in the face”. Wick is a man of few words but many bullets — it’s a role that fits the taciturn Reeves like a glove.”

This article originally appeared on Ew.com