John Wick: Chapter 2 review – by Rob Stoakes
UK certification: 15
It all comes full circle. Long-time readers of this fair website will know that I joined the fold in 2015 and my first review was for a ho-hum little “best action movie in years” called John Wick. Now we just need a sequel to Big Game and a really disappointing Avengers movie and the cycle will begin once again.
But yes, John Wick. One could make a convincing argument that it is the ultimate action movie as far as the nuts and bolts go. It’s got a simple, easy to understand plot that’s set up in less than ten minutes, the protagonist is sympathetic without being soppy and the villains detestable without being unentertaining, the action is crisp and clean and the violence takes place in varied locales with different styles, intensities and spots. So, all those things modern action films have forgotten how to do.
Seriously, here’s a list of the best action films of the last few years. John Wick, Mad Max Fury Road, Big Game, Snowpiercer, Kingsmen and Turbo Kid. All considered modern classics in their own right for “stellar action” and “high levels of quality” when they used to be the norm. And look at their competition. Did any of you see Dr Strange? And by that I don’t mean the movie, I mean could you actually see Dr Strange fighting people in that movie, what with all of the fight scenes being shot from three inches away.
So John Wick’s back to basics approach served it remarkably well, and now John Wick Chapter 2 takes a back to basics approach to sequels by remaking the first one. John Wick has retired (again) when his dark past destroys everything he has (again), so he goes through the hyper-stylised assassin world (again) on a rampage of revenge (second verse, same as the first) while the bad guy fruitlessly throws his employees between John and himself (I’m Henry VIII I am, Henry VIII I am I am…)
Well, so far so shotgun shells, what’s different? Well, the aesthetics have changed. We’re out of the warehouses of New York and comical Russian accents and into Roman museums and comical Italian accents. The plot also has just enough contrast to the original to not be a complete re-tread, and in fact is a slight commentary on the sequel’s own existence.
See, the villains in the first John Wick were all doing their utmost to get John Wick just to go home and not hate-murder them. The villain of this film, by contrast, wants John Wick back to do one last job, which John Wick is very reluctant to, and apparently every other character in this film saw John Wick 1 because every line of dialogue that anyone has is saying to the villain “What are you doing, you lunatic?”
Everything else in the film is very much the same as before. The action scenes are some of the best of modern memory, well-choreographed and well framed, though there’s no real big set piece moment like the nightclub scene was in the first John Wick.
Keanu Reeves is fantastic, again, with his normally wooden performance actually carrying along just how broken John is, and he is supported by a great cast of wacky supporting characters, especially from Ruby Rose as a deaf woman who almost has as cool a screen presence as Reeves himself.
Inevitably, the biggest issue with John Wick Chapter 2 is that it had to follow on from John Wick, a film that so brilliantly tied up its story that anything addition would feel unnecessary no matter how good it was. Plus, it really did come out of nowhere, exploding onto the film scene with no warning.
John Wick Chapter 2, with its looser script and duller action, doesn’t quite match the first outing, but it IS still a John Wick sequel. Even if the filmmakers had spent the run-time drooling onto the camera, it would be leagues above everything else that’s out this week. Do not miss whatever you do.
Budget: $40 million/Music: Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard/Length: 122 minutes