John Wick: Chapter 2
122 minutes (15)
Keanu Reeves doesn’t have a great record when it comes to sequels – in fact, if anything, he’s become something of a bad luck charm for filmic follow-ups.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions all tried and failed to recapture the magic of the originals, while even the sequels they made without him (Speed 2 anyone?) have proven disastrous.
It’s therefore somewhat of a relief to find John Wick: Chapter 2 bucks the trend with a follow-up that builds on the original with a little bit more mythology and back story alongside some breath-taking and genuinely innovative action set-pieces.
Watching John Wick 2, you get a sense that everyone involved is not only having a whale of a time but also putting their all into what amounts to the first big action movie of 2017.
Sole director this time around, Chad Stahelski’s background in stunt work ensures that much of the film’s gun-led action is as first-rate as the original, with the director delivering fire fight set pieces that play out like some akin to a ballet of blood-letting.
Not that the film is completely flawless – at times things veer dangerously close to Matrix-esque levels of convoluted backstory and mythology, which are probably best left alone.
Luckily there’s always some random assassin or assortment of armed goons waiting just around the corner to rev things up again.
The supporting players impress, with Common and Ian McShane both coming to the fore in their respective roles, while the brief appearance of Laurence Fisburne will have film fans of a certain age gushing at the sight of Neo and Morpheus reunited.
Reeves, for his part, plays another blinder as the film’s central protagonist and the man orchestrating much of the film’s action led mayhem.
It’s the pure, unadulterated action and gun-led mayhem that makes this a cut above your average thriller though and ensures that almost all other sins on display are forgiven.
From the film’s opening Mustang smashing session (four were destroyed in the making of the film) to some sublime Rome based running gun batles and some 80s action movie inspired sparring in a room of mirrors (Tango & Cash did something similar) it’s a film that delivers three or four sublime shootouts on a par with the original Matrix’s famous tower heist finale.
Riccardo Scamarcio, as the film’s main villain Santino D’Antonio may be a little more one-dimensional compared with the original’s Viggo Tarasov but by the end any concerns over that and an ever-so-slighty silly plot (something about a blood debt?) will be long forgotten about.
Roll on John Wick 3.