John Wick: Chapter 2
John Wick is back, baby! The strange universe of Chad Stahelski’s 2014 cult hit (think the myth of Aeneas as directed by Michael Mann) has been resurrected for a second instalment of bloody mayhem, which couldn’t be more welcome. The specific rules of the Wick-verse, with its oddly fleshed-out gangster mythos and precise fight choreography – given clarity by patient, precise camera framing – are a welcome antidote to the incoherent approach of most post-Bourne thrillers. And John Wick: Chapter 2 knows what worked about the original and refines its formula to maximise its crowd-pleasing impact; this time around, there’s more world building, more absurd humour, and the action scenes are stacked better, peaking at the climax instead of the midway point. The result is no work of great profundity, but one of the most enjoyable films of its type since 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road; it’s a ballet of bone-crunching satisfaction.
After murdering half the criminal underworld as retribution for the death of his dog, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has settled into a wary retirement. He’s got a new pooch, a nice house, and – in the film’s marvellous opening set piece, which has the timing of a Broadway opening number – has even recovered his car. But when Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls in an old debt, it’s with a heavy heart that Wick must once again murder his way through hundreds of goons in search of peace.
Fans of the original might be surprised to hear that there’s little action in the movie’s first hour, instead it devotes its time to building up the absurdities of its universe. The film revels in its supporting cast, with new additions including Ruby Rose as deaf hitwoman Ares, who communicates through sign language, and Laurence Fishburne as the king of the homeless people, here depicted as a society of assassins hiding in plain sight.
Yet the main draw is Keanu Reeves, who’s once again given one of the best roles of his career. Wick is a blank slate who says very little, perhaps moulded after Jean-Pierre Melville’s Jef Costello, but Reeves – who, it has been argued, would have made a fantastic silent movie actor – augments every movement with grace, conviction, and genuine sadness, the likes of which nobody can do better.
And when the action does inevitably kick off, it’s terrific. The plot is like that of a musical, except instead of songs there are duels of neck-snapping, gunfire and astonishing mood and photography; the hall of mirrors finale, in particular, stands as one of the most well-shot actions scenes of our time. There’s nothing massively original about John Wick: Chapter 2, but few films can match the Platonic idealism of its action spectacle.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is released nationwide on 17th February 2017.
Watch the trailer for John Wick: Chapter 2 here: