Film Review: John Wick: Chapter 2
Everyone keeps asking if he’s back…oh yeah, I'm thinking he’s back!
People keep asking if I’m back and I haven’t really had an answer. But now, yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back. So you can either hand over your son or you can die screaming alongside him! — John Wick
An old debt sends John Wick (Keanu Reeves) to Rome, where a high-level assassination ends with him in the cross-hairs of any killer interested in collecting a $7 million bounty.
With the unprecedented critical and commercial success of the original John Wick, an action fans dream of a movie which took us all by surprise with its masterful brilliance, it was no surprise when a sequel was announced. Considering its meagre budget, the movie boasted the perfect blend of action and gritty, intense story-telling that left the avid fans clamouring for more. Its popularity was unexpected given it was vying for attention against larger and better funded “franchises” but its quality shined above and beyond its competition. Co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, who relied heavily upon their stunt choreography backgrounds, were praised for their efforts but with the latter departing to direct Deadpool 2, many fans feared a side-effect seeping into the sequel.
I’m pleased to report that their fears were unfounded.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is a masterpiece of action and spectacle that builds upon the world created during the original in a way that will have the fans of the series enthralled from beginning to end. The chief difference with this sequel is that John isn’t expressly out for vengeance, in fact he is reluctant to embrace the world of paid assassins at all, but a blood oath compels him back into the fray and all too soon he is back amongst the gunfire. In true action fashion, things go awry once again and Wick finds himself the subject of a seven-million-dollar bounty which alerts every hitman across the globe.
As expected, the resulting mayhem sees a trail of death and destruction that expands in a way the original never could and manages to free itself from the restrictions of New York and goes global. The sequel invites us into the larger world of the assassin network and finds John Wick travelling to Rome where he finds another branch of the Continental Hotel, brimming with working hired guns. The aftermath of his Italian adventure finds him returning home to his native New York but an army of mercenaries await him which begins a bloodbath of epic proportions.
The action is enormous, in fact it is bigger and better than its predecessor, with an elaborate array of opponents for Wick to vanquish. The brawls are impressive, especially whenever Reeves is pitted against co-star Common, who plays a rival assassin. The pair have two intensely brutal clashes, the worthier being a savage subway car showdown, equal to any choreographed fight scene from the original.
Reeves hurls himself into his role as John Wick and is clearly enjoying portraying this alter ego and even brings his Matrix co-star Lawrence Fishburne into the fold as a reliable acquaintance. (My screening even saw a viewer shout out “take the blue pill” during a conversation between the pair and eared a feigned chuckle from his surrounding patrons). The only shortcoming with this reunion is that Fishburne is afforded little to do and fades into the background of story with relative ease but just seeing the pair reunited on screen together was a special moment. With Tyler Bates (Guardians of the Galaxy) returning for scoring duty, the tone of the movie remains delightfully close to the original and affords us a familiar soundtrack of pulse pounding intensity that keeps the momentum going. An unfortunate drawback comes in the form of the movie’s villain, a character that offers very little in the way of a memorable antagonist and whose motives often seem a little too convenient but this does not detract from the splendour of the movie.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is a fantastic follow up to the impressive original, and with the obviously intended sequels to come, the adventures of the paid assassin show no signs of stopping. Keanu Reeves is clearly fully invested in this character and it shows. His fight scenes are intense and brutal and are well choreographed which are accentuated by the impressive opening car chase that has its origins intertwined with the story arc of the original. In short, the movie is a roller coaster ride of fun and action that delivers upon its promise, even though the shock value of the original has since dissipated. Either way, the inevitable sequels will be a joy to watch and more tales from this elaborate and brutal world can only be a good thing.
Only time will tell…
Until then…I’m thinking he’s back!!
Overall Score 8/10
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