John Wick: Chapter 2

Directed by Chad Stahelski
Starring Keanu Reeves, Common, Riccardo Scamarcio, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, Bridget Moynahan, Lance Reddick, Franco Nero, John Leguizamo, and Ian McShane
In UK Cinemas February 17th, 2017 with previews on Valentine’s Day
Watch on iTunes

by Richard Hamer

John Wick: Chapter 2 presents the perfect sequel: The well-choreographed action, the outlandish world-building, the silly sense of humour – everything that made the 2014 original so successful has been retained and expanded upon. It’s an ideal pop-corn movie; loud and violent, but funny and self-aware in a cinematic landscape where – outside the world of Marvel – action is increasingly paired too tightly with grim-dark posturing or puerile frat-boy nonsense.

It is – of course – still nonsense, but it’s nonsense that now, going into its second outing, displays an impressive breadth of place and character. In John Wick: Chapter 2 we learn far more of the comic-book world of the organisation called the ‘Continental’, its internal politics, and its now international chain of up-market assassin sheltering hotels. You see, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds himself brought back out of retirement once again, as he must payback a blood oath to former friend, and Italian crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). Wick’s mission: assassinate D’Antonio’s sister, so he can take her place at the so-called ‘High Table’ of international crime.

Though an action movie at heart, the expanded role that story takes for the sequel isn’t to be ignored. Much of the original’s cast return, along with many of the rules of the world they established. Both are shed in new light, used and subverted to highlight the power dynamics of its new players. It’s all done with a light touch, of course, but an undeniable part of the film’s fun – and what makes it feel fresh and unique – comes from getting to explore this world again, to see its strange and specific rituals.

To its credit, John Wick: Chapter 2 knows when to stop talking, and as an action film it continues to impress. Set pieces are funnier, more violent and more elaborate than in the original. The choreography of it – the sense of weight, the feeling that people are actually getting badly hurt – still mark it as unique among its contemporaries. Light, sound and dynamic camera work all combine to create scenes of carnage that are – as a sensory experience – all but overwhelming.

While Keanu Reeves may not offer a performance rich in emotional depth, he does give one with extraordinary presence. And the movie relies on it: While Chapter 2 does not have quite the same level of ruthless, kinetic energy as its predecessor (as there is more set-up, and a slightly less straightforward motivation), it does work entirely on the back of following Reeves rushing from place to place, being reacted to while giving very little reaction himself. He’s very good at it: While I continue not to buy into John Wick’s backstory sadness over the death of his wife, I do buy into his pain from every gunshot, his frustration at every barrier put up in his way.

Some question marks remain over whether it’s ‘better’ than the first: Chapter 2 raises the bar in every way, but in doing so loses some of the original’s simplistic appeal. And, it goes without saying, as a sequel it’s so reliant on the action and comedy beats of its predecessor that it might be weary for some. But for what it is, John Wick: Chapter 2 comes highly recommended for both fans of the original and anyone who likes their action with a healthy dose of comedy. The perfect sequel.



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