Three years ago Keanu Reeves officially confirmed that he was far from done when it comes to the action genre, and with John Wick he gave us a character who was always going to captivate audiences and have us lusting for more. A character whose dog had been killed and his car stolen, Wick’s initial spree of gunplay, ultra-violence and redemption became a huge hit and now he’s back and undoubtedly badder and more violent than ever. And we loved every second of his return.
John Wick: Chapter Two sees its titular hero looking to finally leave behind his life of violence and weaponry for a much more quieter residency inside his home with his pooch. Unfortunately for Wick, that doesn’t last very long, with Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) turning up on his doorstep to remind him of the blood oath that he swore and pinning him down for one last mission.
It’s a situation Wick is forced into against his will but he’s determined to get the job done and leave behind the world of assassins he has known for years. While all seems well and good at first, Wick is soon betrayed and discovers that he can never leave behind the assassin underworld and proceeds in fending off those other killers who have been contracted to eliminate him once and for all. But this is a man who is well-trained, extremely dangerous and seemingly invincible – let the chaos ensue…
Returning in the director’s chair for a second stint, Chad Stahelski always had a tough task building upon the extreme success of his first film that introduced us to the world of John Wick. The stylish action sequences, the undeniable character in Wick and the world that had been built around his character, Chapter Two would need to be something special to captivate audiences and it’s safe to say that the ante is upped and we go far and beyond its predecessor.
Chapter Two is loud, proud and outrageous from the very get-go, immediately thrusting us into a high-speed chase and subsequent violence before Wick breaks into an enemy base of operations to simply retrieve his car. It lays the foundations for a film that rarely lets up and swiftly returns us to this environment that instantly feels fresh and a welcome return. Reeves’ hitman takes staggering hits from cars – as well as delivering his own – shows off his trademark gunplay and throws hip toss after hip toss in a stunning 10-minute foray of action movie beauty that only paves the way for things to come.
Once we get into the nitty-gritty of the film’s overall narrative playing out, John Wick: Chapter Two is all about the action set pieces and Reeves’ interaction with a host of familiar and new characters helping him along the way. And, in fairness, it all plays out with the utmost of zip, never feeling like there is too much frustrating exposition and instead blasting us with a pace that is truly breakneck and yet we never feel out of breath.
In Reeves’s performance we get everything we need; Wick is an assassin who needs few words to get his message across, while the likes of Common and Ruby Rose make for fun and dangerous opponents for our main man. Common, in particular, is a worthy adversary for Wick and their scenes of combat are particularly hard-hitting, with tumbles down stairs receiving the right reactions from the audience and a train one-on-one going down like an absolute brutal treat.
Ian McShane is, as ever, on top form and the introduction of Laurence Fishburne will not only remind you of the good old days of him and Reeves creating magic in The Matrix, but it will also bring the biggest smiles within the movie, with Fishburne pushing his character to the edge of camp without falling over the edge.
Then there’s the driving force of the movie in its supreme action. Here’s a movie that thrives in its set pieces and, following that famed nightclub scene in the first film, it would take a lot to top the 2004 movie, but Chapter Two delivers so much more and then some. As previously mentioned, our reintroduction to this world of Wick’s is breakneck, and from there is never really stops. Extreme violence – without ever being self-indulgent – is served up left, right and centre, with Wick utilising all the tools at his disposal in the greatest of glory. Whether he’s blasting out those headshots, tactically taking out specific body parts or even utilising that pencil again, the action is clean cut and the fear of any shaky cam is obliterated. This is action direction to its fullest and makes for exceptional watching.
Add to that the neon-encrusted environments and some truly spectacular visual spectacles – a pinnacle scene towards the close of the film involving mirrors is absolutely inspired and arguably the most beautiful a film this violent can be – and John Wick: Chapter Two ticks all the boxes for action movie prowess. Reeves is clearly having fun with his cast and the promise of more to come only heightens the excitement for this admittedly audacious and brutal world.
John Wick: Chapter Two previews in the UK on Valentines Day and is released on 17th February.