I spent a good portion of John Wick: Chapter 2 thinking Keanu Reeves wasn’t right for the titular part. Then I realized he makes the film work.
Picking up where John Wick (2014) ended, we follow John Wick as he rebuilds his house, sends his car for repairs, and tries to resume a normal life. I liked how these scenes acknowledge the mess action pictures leave in their wake. But soon enough, a smarmy mafioso appears, calling in a marker and forcing Wick back into life as an assassin. We meet a delightful array of supporting characters and thrill as Wick offs dozens of bad guys using knives, guns, cars, pens—you name it—before an obligatory double-cross makes him the target of every assassin in New York City. The film doesn’t so much end as set up another installment.
This may read like a direct-to-video production, but John Wick: Chapter 2 transcends the action genre, thanks to Reeves. It starts with the cognitive dissonance he creates. How he marches through the film with a shadow limp. The closeups that betray his fifty-two years. The weariness behind his eyes that clashes with his surfer-dude delivery. How nothing in the film surprises him. I have a theory that ties it all together.
Consider, if you will, that the John Wick universe, with its surreal characters, superhuman assassins, and over-the-top violence, isn’t attempting to pass as real. And consider further that the John Wick character isn’t reluctant to kill out of a moral quandary, but because he knows he can’t lose. In this respect, Reeves’ weary delivery fits perfectly. How many times has he played this story out? His final line, saying “I’ll kill them all,” isn’t a warning or a threat, but a plea. He’s already killed them all, countless times. He’s a self-aware action hero.
Sure, it’s a stretch, and the third installment will likely prove me wrong, but I’m looking forward to it, regardless.