Summary: Following on from his first outing, hit-man par excellence John Wick is once more forced back into the shady world of assassination that he had turned his back on when an old contact calls in a debt that he is unable to refuse. A bad twist in the deal suddenly finds him with a price on his head and the whole hit-man fraternity out for his head…
I absolutely loved 2014’s John Wick; Keanu Reeve had well and truly returned to form in a story of lost redemption. In the first film Reeve’s Wick, an ex-assassin grieving over his lost wife, becomes the victim of a random crime which propels him back into his old way of life with a vengeance. The film borrowed from westerns such a Last Train From Gun Hill as well as Unforgiven, and with it’s stylish yet brutal violence, plus an excellent supporting cast bringing the assassin underworld to life, it became such a commercial and cult hit that a sequel was inevitable.
I was fortunate enough to get into this preview of John Wick Chapter 2, in which we treated to the man himself turning up to give an intro speech with director Chad Stahelski, in watch they promised us a treat… and they delivered on that!
John Wick Chapter 2 takes place immediately after the end of John Wick, with Reeves trying to return to some sense of normality after the first movie’s events. His peace is short-lived after he receives a visit from the Italian Mafia, quite literally making him “an offer he can’t refuse”, by ways of calling in a past debt. This plot mechanism takes us from the US to Rome, via the familiarity of The Continental Hotel, the underground ecosystem for assassins that provides them with weapons, hardware, information and sanctuary, where the hit must take place. However, the outcome is not as planned, and in a double-cross, Wick finds himself with a $7M bounty on his head and every assassin (home & away) out to collect on his head…
John Wick Chapter 2 is bigger than it’s predecessor in every way. The set pieces are larger than life, the explosions louder, the locations more exotic, the supporting cast higher profile – all reflecting a bigger budget that has already delivered an opening weekend twice the $dollar value of the original. The set-pieces are more than a little improbable, but you look past that because you are enjoying it so much. The body count is astronomical – think John Rambo – as Reeves steam-rollers through the movie like The Punisher & Jason Bourne all rolled into one. He has unlimited resources at his disposal in the first half of the film, and this is indicative of that bigger budget. The big difference between this and the first is the strength & tone of its black humour. There is a LOT of humour in the film – laugh out humour – but you’re never laughing at Wick, only ever at the other characters, or the situation that they and/or Wick find themselves in.
The cast are amazing in this film: there are return appearances from the likes of John Leguizamo, the very excellent Lance Reddick and Ian McShane as Wilson, the head of The Continental Hotel. There are also some welcomed highlight performances by Franco Nero and Laurence Fishburne (I could write a whole paragraph of all the Matrix in-jokes the audience were making up, but they’d be spoilers!). Keanu Reeves throws himself in what is an incredibly physically demanding role – the fight scenes are gritty, tactile and are as well choreographed as anything we’ve come to expect Reeves to appear in. Of the film’s new protagonists, the stand-outs were Ruby Rose as the mute assassin Ares, and rapper Common as Cassian – his second turn in an assassins’ fraternity after Wanted – both are excellent & compelling in their respective roles opposite Reeves. The only weak performance was Riccardo Scamarcio, who as the chief adversary to Wick, seemed a little lightweight compared to the rest of the cast, lacking both physical & dialogue gravitas. The film would have benefited from any number of more established actors with screen presence in the key adversarial role. The pace of the movie almost never let’s up, and film is visually beautiful, benefiting from shooting in Rome and the nicer parts of New York. The only advice I can give to make this film as enjoyable as possible, is to watch the original the night before you go to see this… but go to see this you must!
John Wick Chapter 2 is on general release from Friday 17th Feb
GS Blogger: SilverFox
GS Rating: 4/5