Director: Chad Stehelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Franco Nero, Laurence Fishburne, Claudia Gerini, John Leguizamo.
Written by: (based on the characters created) Derek Kolstad
Running Time: 122 mins
Release date: 17th February 2017
Back in 2014, John Wick was the surprise sleeper hit of that year, a full-on action thriller that received critical raves (including from myself), particularly about its star and his physical approach to the film, turning his career completely around. It was obvious that a sequel wasn’t going to be too far behind and thus, we have John Wick: Chapter 2, or should I say, more of the same only pumped up, turned up and extended. Sadly, to the detriment of the enjoyability of the piece.
After bringing hitman John Wick back out of retirement, John gets his car back and decides that he wants nothing more to do with that world until Santino D’Antonio arrives at his house with a marker that John Wick had made; a marker that has to be obeyed. Santino wants Wick to kill his sister so he can sit at the high table of the international criminal underworld. What John doesn’t know is that once the job has been completed, Santino will put a bounty on his head and that John Wick will become the target of every hitman around.
What worked so well in the first instalment was the simplicity of the piece. There was no over-complicated plotting or complexity of character. This was one man out to find the guy who stole his car and killed his dog. Within ten minutes, we are in the world of revenge. To justify the existence of a sequel, we know get a more complex storyline about this seemingly secret world we live in, where every other person seems to be an assassin. No longer is John Wick, The Boogeyman, a man to be feared no matter who you are. John Wick seems to be a small part of a world riddled by boogeymen and women.
After the first five minutes, in which Wick is after his stolen car and your eardrums are bursting from the sounds of screeching tyres and pounding fists, you immediately know that this is going to be a lot louder and a lot more extreme than the first film. That part doesn’t disappoint. In fact, as John tries to protect himself from would-be assassins, two thoughts go through your mind: one – why do I get the feeling I’m watching a first-person shoot-out like some computer game? And two – when is this going to end?
We get a barrage of shooting, punching, kicking and even death by pencil, that seem to go and on and on. The relentlessness of the violence, in all its graphic forms no longer has that sense of fun and excitement it did before. Mainly, I think, the film suffers from the Die Hard effect. When the first Die Hard film came out, it seemed so different that, even though it had Bruce Willis as its star, there was still a chance that Willis might not survive. The same with the original John Wick. Now, however, like John McClaine in Die Hard 2, you know he is almost invincible, so the element of tension that the first film built up has now gone.
That’s not saying there isn’t things to enjoy about John Wick: Chapter 2. The large section set within the Continental Hotel, which serves as a secret base for the assassins, is tremendous fun. A world where you can pick up weapons (a hilarious cameo from Peter Serafinowicz as a Sommelier who doesn’t offer wine), have a bulletproof suit made or where you can get words of wisdom from the manager, wouldn’t feel out of place in a Bond film. The action sequences are extremely well handled and executed. Director Chad Stehelski knows that to appreciate the physicality of the action, you use a steady camera so you can see what is happening. Lastly, Keanu Reeves.
Reeves may not be the greatest actor but when it comes to action, he throws himself into it, literally. At 52 years old, he does virtually all the stuntwork. Like before, he doesn’t just act John Wick, he IS John Wick. This time he has twice as much work to do, which is attacked with so much energy that you feel you done a complete workout by the end. It’s also nice to see Ian McShane getting a larger slice of the pie as the Manager and one treat for Matrix fans is seeing the reuniting of Reeves with Laurence Fishburne.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is a high-octane, adrenaline rush of a film and the young teenagers in the screening I attended seem to relish in every vicious, brutal act (which did make me question the classification. Maybe a 15 is too lenient). Sadly, however, it feels too long and it becomes far too repetitive for its own good, making it a little baggy. If you like your action films full-on, then you will love this. I was somewhat disappointed.