For some reason, I missed John Wick: Chapter 2 at the cinema. So it was an essential home video purchase, as I absolutely loved the first one. A throwback noir-action film with modern intensity and some outstanding choreography. Would the second one live up to the first?
Yes. Yes it would.
Keanu Reeves returns as the titular John Wick, a hitman with an almost supernatural ability to kill. The first film saw John tragically lose his wife and while still reeling from her death, have his car stolen and his dog murdered by a particularly unlikeable Alfie Allen. He enacted his revenge by killing his way through hordes of bad guys, in one of the best action films this side of the 80’s.
This movie, while largely being more of the same, expands the rich mythology introduced in the first one. the “Chapter 2” subtitle is spot on, it truly is a direct continuation as opposed to an unnecessary cash-grab sequel. Reeves takes his intensity and performance to the next level, bringing a new sense of desperation to Wick. When there’s nothing left to avenge and he’s forced back into the business, Wick’s survival instincts kick in. It’s great to see Keanu back as an action star, especially supported by such an amazing supporting cast.
The plot is fairly simple, after a blistering, intensely violent opening gun battle, John Wick heads back to retirement. However, he owes a favour to Italian mobster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who blows his house up and drags him instantly back out of retirement. Santino wants John to perform a hit on his own sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini) in Rome. Shit hits the fan, as you’d expect and Wick calls upon all his skills, resources and contacts to help him survive.
One thing I couldn’t shake while watching was the feel of a noir James Bond movie, sort of a Bond antidote in some ways. Dark, über violent and on the wrong side of the law. His visit to the tailor and gunsmith feeling like a trip to a twisted Q branch.
Chad Stahelski is directing solo this time, with John Wick 1 co-director David Leitch scooting off to make Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. Not a bad trade to be fair. The two stunt performers turned directors also did the second unit work on Captain America Civil War, clearly cornering the market in big action scenes.
Mind you, saying action is all Stahelski is good for would be a huge disservice, as JW2 looks gorgeous. From the swathes of neon light to the highly stylised subtitles, the whole movie feels it’s been expertly choreographed, everything flows perfectly.
The supporting cast, as I mentioned above, is truly phenomenonal. Outside of our leads, we have turns from Peter Stormare, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Common. Everyone is chewing the scenery (except for a mute Ruby Rose, who solely uses sign language). David Patrick Kelly’s Charlie was sadly relegated to the blu ray deleted scenes. My interview with David, where he talks about the John Wick movies, amongst other things, can be found here.
We also get to see Laurence Fishburne and Reeves back together for the first time since The Matrix movies, and what a reunion it is. Definitely more of the Fish to come in the JW Universe. Maybe even an appearance on the spin-off TV show that’s in development, The Continental, based around the film’s chain of hotels,where in the assassins conduct business
I really enjoyed John Wick Chapter 2. It’s a blisteringly paced action thriller. It has genuinely great characters inhabiting the it’s world, some you feel are placed just in case they choose to pull the trigger on them, so to speak, for use in a sequel.
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