After the furious introduction to John Wick and his world in the first film we are pretty much thrown straight back into it. We find John in typical belligerent mood as he hunts down his car that was cruelly taken from him in the first film. He loves that car and would do anything to have it back in his life…..
If you have seen the first film (and you should, it’s brilliant!) we fully expect to see more of the same for this film, and that is a very good thing. To me, John Wick was a shot in the arm against a backdrop of serious films and award bait. Stylish and packed full to the brim with awesome action sequences it hit the right note at the right time.
And so we have moved on to John Wick: Chapter 2. As with most sequels the driving factor is to make it bigger and better than the original and in some ways it succeeds with this. There are more action sequences although nothing quite manages to reach the heights of the club scene from the first film but the catacombs sequence is a full on onslaught for 10-15mins of high octane shooting and fighting, giving it a completely different feel from the club scene. The fighting style that they have implemented for the hitmen and women is fantastic, a mix of judo, karate and highly polished gun form and it works beautifully on the screen, allowing the focus to remain on the main protagonist whilst numerous other assailants are dispatched in various ways. Whilst John Wick is a prime exponent of this highly fantastic style it is obvious that John definitely isn’t invincible; he succumbs to multiple injuries, takes his fair share of hits, shots and knifes but keeps moving forward. Much like the Terminator with style and more class.
This film is highly polished, the same slick style has been continued, the same personnel show up and give it that connection, that continuation of story that is needed. It is great to see Winston and Charon again and to explore their world a bit more. Chapter 2 takes the premise of this culture of assassins further, we only get a glimpse of this world in the first film but we are introduced to the extent that this world exists. Multiple Continental Hotels across the world give a little hint as to how far and wide this society has spread.
Chad Stahelski has done another great job in getting this film written and made and has managed to build on the first film, his first film, in such a way that it doesn’t sully the memory or legend of it but enhances it, expands on it and, most definitely, runs with it. In addition to the awesome action on the screen I found this to be a lot funnier than the previous film, with some great references back to the first film and John’s legendary status.
Again, visually, this film looks great. From the Italian setting through to the subway it appeals to my sense of style, and style plays an important part of this world. Once again Keanu Reeves is superb as John Wick, embodying the man with style and passion. Ably supported by Ian McShane as Winston, Ricardo Scamarcio as John’s antagonist Santino D’Antonio, and Ruby Rose and Common as John’s main assassin enemies.
For all the thrilling elements to this film the only down side is the attempt to give it too much space for acting/exposition/storyline. Whilst it all fits in, the good thing about the first film is that it relies heavily on the action sequences to get the message across and Keanu is superb at that, brooding, dark, driven, focussed. This change for Chapter 2 caused the film to drag a little between action sequences, trying to deliver too much of the mythology, setting itself up for another film. Which, in my opinion, feels like it is taking it too far; the first film is about getting revenge on those who took away his last link to his wife from him, that he was doing it for her and the memory of her. This film, Chapter 2, he is doing it because he has to, again because of events that occurred when he was trying to to get out to have a normal life with the love of his life. This supposed third film is set up for it to be about life preservation for John, something that he seemed to care little for in these first two films. It just feels like there is no driving desire there, nothing to motivate him, to give him his legendary focus.
So, slightly worried that this is going to take it too far, diminishing the memory of it, similar to the Matrix trilogy. However, that doesn’t mean that I probably won’t go to see it, I’d be mad not to! Call me a bonafide John Wick fan, there will always be a place in my life for films like this, and this one does it better than every other one out there at the moment.
That being said, if you are after another taste of the John Wick world then this is going to satisfy completely. Bigger in scope and deeper in mythology, it tries to add another layer to this world which, for the most part, succeeds if never quite surpassing the excitement of watching the first film. The action is superb once again and the presence of Keanu’s John Wick looms large over all those who are in his way.