With the release of John Wick, a marvellously stripped back revenge flick, Keanu Reeves successfully pulled off an action classic hat trick. Both Speed and the Matrix gave the genre a boot up the arse when needed but with the second chapter of this bullet-to-the-face fable he’s pulled off something he never managed before. While he wisely was a no-show for Speed 2 and the Matrix sequels were expensive looking gobbledegook, with John Wick Chapter 2 Keanu has nailed his first, truly great action sequel.
Beginning not long after the first movie ended, it clears up a rather hanging plot point by having John reclaim his stolen car – and murder lots of people with it.
It’s a fantastic opening, a statement of intent if you will, that continues all the way to the end credits. You see, instead of this being another simple revenge story, JW2 tries to do something slightly different.
As news of his body count laden comeback spreads, a figure from John Wick’s comes calling in a marker, something the rather strict laws of the global hitman fraternity will not allow him to break. So it’s off to Rome to slaughter a big cheese and all the fallout that comes with it. Pretty soon Wick has a massive price on his head with sharp suited kill machines spilling out from ever nook and cranny that New York has to offer.
It’s this shifting of storytelling helps keep this sequel ahead of the game and making feel like a genuine continuation of a story rather than a rehash, plus there is a welcome expansion to the world Wick works in with more scenes involving The Continental, the free zone hotel run by Ian McShane’s shady Winton and even a foreign branch over seen by Franco Nero of all people. The growth of this universe (which also includes a welcome cameo by Lawrence Fishburn) is something else that makes this not just another cash in, this is a rich, mysterious world that could run and run where even the silly stuff utterly rules, like what exactly IS the citizen to hitman ratio of New York? Something like 5 to 1 by my count. And exactly how many more franchises is Ruby Rose gonna pop up in this year? She’s been in this, Resident Evil and xXx and it’s only fucking February.
And then there’s the action. The long shots of Reeves intelligently cutting a swathe through armies of low lifes with a seamless mixture of Jujitsu and gun-fu are still present and correct but the style is far more confident. A wordless nonchalant silenced gun fight in a crowded area is wickedly funny and the final set piece held in a art installation features a beautifully shot brawl in a mirrored room that would make Bruce Lee mess his kecks.
So what we have here is a superior action movie with big ideas and incredibly smart direction and a typically driven, overblown central performance by it’s leading man in a role tailor made for his particular talents. It’s a wonderfully over the top universe I’d foam at the mouth to visit for a third go round with so much still to be revealed.
I’m gonna go as far to say that all the way up to it’s oddly moving climax, this fantastic Chapter 2 actually exceeds it’s predecessor, but only by a distance of nine millimetres…