John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is yet again dragged into the world of crime from which he is attempting to retire, this time he must settle a blood debt he has with an Italian gangster (Riccardo Scamarcio) trying to move up within the inner circles of the assassin underworld.
John Wick came out of nowhere back in 2015 and became a real cult classic over the last few years. As such it was always going to be a tough act to follow in terms of a sequel. You have to deliver the parts of the first one that people liked, whilst at the same time creating a different movie and expanding out the underworld. John Wick 2 probably does about as good a job as could have been possible given where the first instalment left off.
Chapter 2 suffers from having less of a direct narrative thrust and impeding need for Wick to be in this world. It also of course doesn’t have the surprise factor that was so key to John Wick’s success first time round, although it seems harsh to penalise Chapter 2 for this. However what John Wick 2 does do is to include more of the same kind of brutal fight choreography unaffected by intrusive and disorientating jump cuts. Faith is placed in Reeves and his compatriots to physically perform in a way you just don’t see actors doing. But despite the brutality incurred by longer takes and the 15 rating, it never gets heavy thanks to the fun and occasionally pretty funny set ups for the action sequences.
Michael Nyqvist was such an excellent villain for the first Wick movie that it was always going to be difficult to find a suitable replacement. Clearly those involved have taken note of this and instead of attempting to create another such charming and intelligent adversary have opted with the many hitmen with different personalities route. Thus we see Common playing the suave sophisticated hitman that he’s nurtured and grown over movies like Run all Night, and we have Ruby Rose playing a deadly mute assassin – a wise decision given Rose’s notable lack in acting ability.
But of course the most important component of the film is Reeves himself. Reeves has now managed to become an iconic action star for over two decades now, an honour few actors can claim they achieved. And really Wick brings out the best in Reeves. He’s sombre and threatening and commands weaponry in a way that is both distinctive and realistic looking. It’s so refreshing to see an actor that isn’t Jason Statham really appreciate the art of being a true action star. Lots of credit really must go to the choreography team for creating sequences that find the perfect balance between looking great and seeming plausible. Never before in a movie series have I seen someone reload so often, it seems like such a simple thing but it really helps to ground the film and also leads to creative and humorous action sequences on occasion.
The film does a pretty decent job of expanding the assassin underworld without giving too much away and lessening the intrigue. Enter Peter Serafinowicz and Laurence Fishburne in essentially cameo roles to both expand this world and chew the scenery like their lives depended on it. Fishburne particularily is clearly having a great time and really that’s the tone of the movie. It’s just a really great time. It knows what it’s about and it tries to be the best that it can be within those parameters. While it isn’t quite as good as the first movie was, Chapter 2 is certainly Reeves’ best sequel and works as further proof that this is the way action should be shot.