Is there a better actor than Keanu Reeves? Is there a worse actor? No, and also no. Keanu Reeves must be the most talented actor in any action movie to be able to deliver John Wick’s lines with a straight face; however, he also needs like two seconds before he delivers any line in order to… I don’t know… Ready himself? It is bizarre, but guess what? Throughout the movie I could not for the life of me take my fucking eyes off of him. He simultaneously sets the bar — to its lowest point and its highest — for the action genre. He’s mesmerizing.
So are John Wick: Chapter 2′s visuals.
There is a scene that uses a fountain as a suspense device. Two men are after each other, and the only cover they’ve got is a timed fountain in a crowded courtyard. When the water goes down, they know the other’s position, and therefore don’t shoot. But when the water rises they shoot. This is only one of maybe five excellent action sequences I remember.
You know what I can’t remember? The specifics of plot. If you had asked me in the lobby after the movie who was who and why some of them were after John Wick I couldn’t tell you. In this case ignorance truly is bliss. John Wick writer Derek Kolstad strips away all the excess of 21st century action movies and leaves you with the only tropes that work, and the actors that work best with them, which is how you get Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, other movies), Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Boyz ‘n’ the Hood), Common (movies), and Peter Stormare (Not Steve Buscemi in Fargo, and one of the suspects in The Usual Suspects).
The best part is, everyone is both in on the joke, and know based on the success of the first film that they’re above that joke. In essence, they have their cake and they get to eat it, too. So does the audience, because this is an audience’s movie.
I can honestly say that even though I have no idea why what happens in the movie happens, and I can’t remember anything about the first one except that Theon killed John Wick’s dog, the film is more than worth seeing. The action scenes are inventive, they save the best cinematography for the action scenes, the acting is… there is acting, Common is in it and he plays Keanu Reeves’ frenemy.
Best of all, the film ends on a true cliffhanger, and the cliffhanger both answers a major question I had throughout the entire movie, and sets up a great premise for the inevitable third film.
Whatever genre this is (Action? One step back from the action genre still within some greater action genre?) Keanu Reeves’ position as its centre is safe.