John Wick: Chapter 2 - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
IF THE first John Wick proved to be an unexpected blast, then this follow-up is every bit as fun, even if it lacks the originality of its predecessor.
Chad Stahelski has delivered a bigger, broader, even more ridiculous sequel (or second chapter) that broadens the world created in the original and raises the stakes to extreme levels. Just occasionally, the result feels over-indulgent and needlessly excessive but thanks to the film’s knowing sense of the absurd and its stylish way with action, you’ll be having too much fun to notice.
Opening just hours after the original, the film throws you into the thick of the action as Wick (Keanu Reeves) heads to the hideout of a heavily protected Russian crime tsar (a gloriously OTT Peter Stormare) to retrieve his stolen car. Cue multiple hand-to-hand fight scenes, expertly choreographed gun-play and some good old fashioned smash em ups involving multiple vehicles. It’s carnage on a grand scale.
Stahelski establishes from the outset that this is a film that knows how to wink to its audience, while striving to be audacious at every opportunity. And it’s a formula that works very effectively… much like the director’s refusal to let his film stand still for longer than five or 10 minutes.
For no sooner has Wick returned home to sink back into retirement and mourn the loss of his wife, then a knock at the door brings back an old colleague to call in a marker. The man in question is Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who wants Wick to travel to Rome to eliminate his sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini), who holds the seat at the High Table of international super-criminals that he so craves.
Refusal not being an option, Wick reluctantly agrees to repay the debt, only to find himself being betrayed and targeted by a vengeful D’Antonio once the mission has been completed, as well as those rival assassins who were loyal to Gianna (including her bodyguard, played by Common).
What follows is a breathless chase movie, as Wick seeks to evade or kill the innumerable assassins on his trail while turning the tables back on D’Antonio. And while this sometimes feels repetitive (given Wick’s preference for head shots), Stahelski and company work had to ensure there’s always something fresh or quirky waiting in the wings.
The decision to delve deeper into the world surrounding the Continental (and Ian McShane’s code of conduct) offers plenty of intrigue, while ‘guest appearances’ by veteran stars such as Franco Nero and Laurence Fishburne bring about some sly interplay. There’s a lot of fun to be had in seeing how the characters interact, with such scenes offering some nice – albeit brief – respite from the violence.
The set pieces, meanwhile, continue to dazzle by virtue of both their ingenuity and their sheer audacity. Stahelski is a John Woo for a new generation; an action devotee who knows how to deliver a stylish set piece while pushing the envelope at every opportunity.
A Rome-set chase beneath the Catacombs is super eye-catching, while a succession of confrontations in and around a New York subway is endlessly inventive, sometimes wince-inducingly violent and nearly always exhilarating. There is some virtuoso stuff.
Just occasionally, the film threatens to become a parody of itself, while Wick’s invincibility does, at times, enter superhero-style territory (which is a tired, over-worked device). But then Reeves likeability in the role ensures the film somehow stays grounded in spite of its wilder extravagances.
Overall, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a fantastically enjoyable follow-up to one of the best action films of recent years. It’s a sequel that manages to go bigger without losing sight of what made it so much fun in the first place. And while there are undoubtedly flaws, the film proves agile enough to prevent them from seeming too glaring.
Running time: 2hrs 2mins
UK Release Date: February 17, 2017