John Wick: Chapter 2 comes two years after the first tore up cinemas across the world and resurrected the career of Keanu Reeves, who hasn’t felt so comfortable in a role since he played Neo in The Matrix. It doesn’t disappoint. In fact, this is a sequel that advances on its predecessor in a way that’s incredibly satisfying – and not only for the body count and beautifully constructed action scenes it delivers. It opens directly after the events of the first film, with a dizzying car chase through the neon-lit streets of New York City as John Wick (Reeves) reclaims the car that was stolen from him.
Wick returns home in the hopes of living the rest of his life in peace, only to be drawn back into the criminal underworld when he’s forced to repay a debt owed to Italian mobster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). The script then takes Wick to Rome and back again as he carries out the hit, landing himself in far bigger danger in the process. It’s a thrill ride – a cacophony of action scenes if you will that doesn’t so much as bother with brains and convoluted plot as in how many bodies Wick leaves in his wake. The direction is streamlined but gorgeous; returning director Chad Stahelski a clear maestro who’s been influenced by Asian cinema. His action scenes are ones of beauty and not mere bloodshed.
Whether it’s in a fisticuff brawl through Rome or a gun fight deep within the catacombs, there’s a certain level of measure to the madness that makes the average shoot-em-up far more interesting to watch. A scene near the end of the film involving a art installation on reflection, in particular, is an absolute delight in more ways than one, not least the fact no filmmaking equipment can be seen in any of the mirrors. Wick is a role that Reeves digs into with his might. It’s as if he was made for it. However, his inability to emote beyond a default expression of bemusement is noticeable during the films quieter, drier spells that could have been expunged had the run time been been sharper.
Proceedings drag noticeably with the arrival of Laurence Fishburne, making something of a reunion for the two former Matrix stars. But then, no one comes to a film like this for the plot. It moves things along, and delves deep enough into the underworld to not feel like a mere retread. Plus, it allows for characters actors such as Ian McShane to pop up, spouting lines of dialogue about honour and upholding rules even amongst some of the most violent people in the world. In simple terms, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a feast for the eyes and ears that entertains without asking for anything in return.
Jamie Neish | @JamieNeish