Saw this last night. After 12 hours to process, some thoughts.
Overall, a solidly good sequel. They didn't remake the first film to their credit, and they also went for a different hook to keep John in the game - which also allowed them to continue to worldbuild. I think the film's best accomplishment is making Wick the true underdog in a way he wasn't in the first film. He was still John Wick, the Boogeyman.....but suddenly nearly the whole world was hunting him, and sheer numbers alone mean that's going to be a challenge for our hero.
Like the first film, the movie doesn't try to be more than it is while also successfully claiming more narrative space for itself.
I loved Wick's scream of rage when picking up his backup kit. The character is a really closed off guy, which fits both the genre, actor, and tone, so the few times we see John get frazzled have impact.
More McShane! Always a good thing.
Another smart thing the film does: matching that closed-off personality with more colorful figures. Giving Wick characters like Winston and the Bowery King to bounce off keeps things interesting when Wick's not shooting people.
LOVED Cassian and Wick casually shooting at each other in the airport. I cackled!
The entire sequence with Gianna was pretty great, from every standpoint. It was a great hint at the amazing camera work with mirrors to come, as well.
...which brings us to the Reflections of the Soul sequence. It felt like the film both amazed us with the use of mirrors but also didn't make a big deal out of it. Packed with "How are they getting this shot without seeing the camera in the mirror?" shots it was also just a great action sequence. Again, continuing the tension of Wick as the master assassin but also the hunted underdog.
I also get the feeling there was a bit more thematic work being done in this film: we open with John being squeezed because of unbreakable rules, and bowing to them. We end with John breaking a cardinal rule, and shattering his entire world because of it.
And this may sound like a criticism but it's not: calling this Chapter 2 was PERFECT. Because with these two films, it does very much feel like the visualization of a gleefully pulp story. Chapter 1 introduces the main character and the world. Chapter 2 dives deeper. Chapter 3 appears to be when the shit really gets real.
But now a few things on the negative side:
The entire opening sequence felt unnecessary. The film could've easily opened with Santino coming to collect the marker. Maybe the opening was to get newcomers up to speed? Opening with action that's apparently pretty much right after the first film wasn't expected and confused me at first. I think the point was to show newcomers (and/or perhaps folks less rabidly in love with the first film) what John's background and inciting incident was. But it still felt sort of tacked on.
....relating to that: we get the set up that Aurelio will fix John's car....and then that's left unresolved.
Overall, the music and song choices felt less effective than the first film. This song works well in the film but there was nothing on par with the Marilyn Manson song or Kaelida's "Think" from the first film.
During the museum/mirror sequence, Wick TWICE does not pick up guns from the men he's killed despite constantly running low on bullets. This seems especially weird since otherwise the film makes it a clear point to show us when Wick claims clips and guns from his defeated foes.
Those nitpicks aside, I'm already looking forward to owning this and watching both films in a row!