Rarely does a franchise sequel out-perform its predecessor. I enjoyed the first John Wick film—when I finally sat down to watch it, a couple weeks ago (see my Rewind Review on that…)—and with the same cast and crew returning for the sequel, I had an inkling I’d enjoy it, as well. Chapter 2 grabbed me from the very beginning, kicking off with a very intense car combat sequence, and refusing to let go until the credits rolled. This is an adrenaline-fueled action-thriller, where the twists and turns aren’t just relegated to the car chases.
As with the original, the immaculate set-pieces and refined choreography of the fight scenes are part of what give this film its strength; the original nailed it in the action category, and the filmmakers really upped the ante on this sequel. Fights are bigger. Run-and-gun sequences are longer and more layered—even stopping and then starting up again in later scenes. The film’s writing team does not disappoint with the dialogue, either: snappy, smart, and styled to the tone of the overall film. It all makes for a truly kick-ass experience, hampered only by the fact that it has to, eventually, end.
Once again, Keanu Reeves rocks it in the title role. With the added—albeit, “cameo”—acting chops of Laurence Fishburne, Common, Peter Serafinowicz (Shaun of the Dead), and Peter Stormare (Minority Report), the cast of this film is even bigger than the last. Returning characters—played by John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, and Lance Reddick, among others—re-establish the universe without playing it too safe, as new enemies from within threaten to tear the legendary Mr. Wick and his brotherhood apart.
The inevitable fight between Ruby Rose’s Ares character and Reeves’s Wick, teased in the trailer, is fun, if a bit over-hyped. But it’s the touch-and-go moments of tense interplay between the two that led up to it that make the fight what it is. They’re equals—she is what John might have become, had he let the underworld totally consume him…had he not tried to escape it all and go into retirement. While that hasn’t gone well for him, to date, those that try to rope him back into the game find out—the hard way—that that is the biggest mistake they could’ve made. The film’s “villain” (and I use that word lightly; all that goes on, the lines that are drawn in the sand, are all relative to one’s perspective), played by Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt), is only a red herring in what John comes to realize is a much bigger enemy…one that has come to know the deadly Mr. Wick as a threat. The film asks much bigger questions about the state of the world, in which all-powerful overseers can support or topple governments with these international, seemingly-lawless hired guns at their disposal. All this makes the ending cliffhanger evermore jaw-dropping.
One thing that continues to boggle me, though, is why the antagonists of John’s world continue to try and rile him. No one earns the title of “The Boogeyman” by sparing the lives of those that’ve crossed him. Just leave the poor man alone with his dog and his retirement! When will they learn? Still, makes for an intense and thoroughly-entertaining two hours of cinema, so…I’ll let it slide.
Before I close, I have to give a big shout-out to the 4K cinema experience. The opening action sequence is allthemore enjoyable with surround-sound and the high-definition presentation. Just a great way to watch movies. Go and see this one in theatres, you guys…
With film references galore and on-screen fights that would make even Mr. Statham, himself, blush, John Wick, Chapter 2 is a rip-roaring good time. Spiced up with intelligently-written dialogue, and shellacked with the blood of Wick’s victims (and there’s plenty of shellac to go around) it’s an action-lover’s dream-come-true. Can’t wait to see where Chad Stahelski and his crew take the third—and, possibly, final—chapter, slated for sometime in 2018.
Final ‘Risk Assessment: *****/.
EXTRA VIEWING: Keanu Reeves trains for role in John Wick, Chapter 2
Next review: The LEGO Batman Movie