John Wick: Chapter Two
It was always kind of inevitable that 2015’s John Wick would get a sequel. The original movie saw the titular Wick (Keanu Reeves) as a legendary assassin turned husband turned widower turned assassin again, and contained some of the best choreographed action scenes that I’d seen for a long time. Chapter Two sees John Wick thinking he was out of the assassin game for good only to be (inevitably) pulled back in to honour a marker, sort of an IOU for assassins, to Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). Violence and guns, lots of guns ensue.
John Wick sounds like it shouldn’t really work. The premise of a master assassin trying to live a peaceful life only to be dragged back into the underworld isn’t really anything new. I suppose one of the main differences is that where these films would normally see the reluctant assassins pulled back in to save someone they love, John Wick is quite the opposite. The first film revolved around revenge for the car theft and dog murder, how many other action films can boast that?
I think that one of the main reasons that John Wick was so good is that it is incredibly well styled and more importantly puts the action front and centre. There’s no doubting that the action scenes in the original looked spectacular and had a certain purity that made it exciting right from the off. The other key thing that sets John Wick apart is the world building that went on in the first movie. The life of the assassins, and particularly the Continental Hotel that provides all the services a killer for hire could ever need, really fleshed John Wick out from a standard action movie to something with a bit depth.
I suppose the big question is ‘does John Wick: Chapter Two manage to deliver on the promise of the original film?’. The answer is sort of. Things in Chapter Two kick-off only days after the end of the original film, with Wick trying to recover his stolen car, which was one of the things that kickstarted Wick’s return to his old ways. The opening action scene is an over the top dose of car-gun-fu, but it is still wonderfully choreographed and kind of sets the tone for things to come.
John Wick: Chapter Two sees the action head out of the States and into Europe as Wick gets to visit the Rome branch of The Continental, giving us a little bit ore of a look into the world of assassins. There are some really nice touches, Peter Serafinowicz’s Sommelier and John Wick’s trip to the tailor. But I did wonder at times if the film was trying to build to much mythos into the world of assassins.
Wick ends up in some trouble with Santino, and it things quickly escalate to pretty much all of the world’s top assassins being after John. That in itself was quite interesting and allowed for some pretty inventive action scenes, but the problem I had was that a large percentage of the population were assassins. That’s before you even start to consider Lawrence Fishburne’s network of homeless assassins. Oh yeah, pretty much every homeless person in New York is an assassin working for Lawrence Fishburne. The fact that nearly everyone is seemingly an assassin isn’t such a bad thing, I can buy into that but I think one of the main issues was that this all made John Wick feel a bit less special. One of the main things about the character that we learnt in the first film was that he was an incredible assassins, the bogeyman that everyone was terrified of. Somehow, John Wick just felt a little diminished and less imposing in Chapter Two.
The action itself is still pretty great, but there were times when things got a little repetitive. There’s only so many times you can see Keanu Reeves grapple a man to the floor and then shoot him in the face. That said, there are some amazing scenes and superb little touches. For example, there’s a scene where Wick checks if there is a bullet in the chamber using one hand…it’s hard to explain here but it was a real ‘wow’ moment for me and it was just a small throwaway few seconds in the grand scheme of things. I think John Wick: Chapter Two is a victim of the first film’s success in a way. The first film felt so fresh and like an action film reduced to it’s purest form that any sequel would always struggle to beat it. It’s a bit like the Raid in that respect in that it’s taken a really pure action concept and tried to expand the world and the backstory. It’s not bad, it’s just different.
I really enjoyed John Wick: Chapter Two, it goes to show that even at 52 Keanu Reeves is still one of the best action stars out there at the moment and with John Wick, Point Break, Speed and the Matrix is one of the best action stars of all time. It’s a fun film that begins to build up the world of assassins and The Continental and I am looking forward to seeing where the inevitable Chapter Three takes Wick. I just can’t see there being a happy ending when all is said and done.