Slide into your snappiest suit, load your multitude of firearms and get ready to shoot A LOT of people as I review John Wick Chapter 2.
Since first setting eyes on the smooth, stylish and punchy hyper-reality of John Wick I have been an unabashed fan of Keanu’s latest action icon. My excitement levels on hearing that the sleeper hit of 2015 was coming back were very high and I’m glad to say that, for the most part, they have been satisfied by this second outing of the world’s most reluctant be-suited hit-man.
First, the good: This is just as concentrated on style and all out action as it’s predecessor. Chad Stahelski has returned as the director of his budding action franchise and his eye for framing shots and kinetic but clear camera movement still carry the trademark level of crunching impact that he demonstrated in John’s first outing.
It’s clear that the same stunt team are back as well, as the fight scenes have the precision, drive and force that I had been craving ever since the previous movie finished. On the acting front everyone is on fine form. Keanu is clearly having a whale of a time bringing back the terse, tense and direct assassin with a heart. His every movement is completely thought out and utterly committed, which is just what John needs to be, but the world-weariness that he brings to the part stops him from becoming robotic.
The other shining light of the film is Ian McShane returning as Winston, the owner of the wonderfully bizarre hit-man hotel chain; the Continental. His suave, unsurprised and cool composure is exactly the foil that John’s explosive tension needs to play off against. Any time McShane is on screen my enjoyment of the movie stepped up a notch.
Now the not so good: One of the best things about the first John Wick movie was its stripped back, minimalist storyline that hinted at a world with a history outside of what we were shown on screen. This time around we spend a lot more time getting to know the depths of the assassin world that we only guessed at in the previous film. On one level this is immensely satisfying as the depths we are shown are downright cool, but the downside is that it makes the story more convoluted. That slightly less direct storyline means that this film lacks the directness of the revenge story the first told.
In some ways this is the same problem The Raid 2 had when compared to The Raid, the larger world meant that it felt less focussed. In a film where the main character is focus-incarnate I found it frustrating at points that he was being made to jump through so many hoops. Then again, it was clearly very hard to find another reason to bring him back into the world that he spent so long trying to get out of, so I suppose this was only to be expected.
I should say at this point that there is convoluted in most movies and convoluted for a John Wick film. Don’t worry, this isn’t an M. Night Shyamalan movie! The other main issue I had with the film is that, like any action sequel, it has to try to top what we saw in the first film. I will admit that, even though I love everything the fight choreographer has put together for this film, I started to get a little gun-tired towards the end of the movie. This isn’t because what was on show was anything other than action of the very highest level, but because there are only so many faceless goons you can see picked off before you stop worrying so much about the health of the protagonist.
So we have a film that is basically undercut by it’s own success. It’s still great compared to pretty much any other action franchise out there, but it’s not quite the breath of fresh air that its predecessor was. That being said, I’m still very much looking forward to seeing what John Wick Chapter 3 has in store for us.
Three Moons out of Five, sophisticated action for the discerning gun afficionado!