Admittedly, I am pretty late to the John Wick party. But boy am I glad to finally be on board!
To catch up with the cool gang I watched both John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 back to back, and what a blood-soaked afternoon of revenge it was. Whilst the first of the two films couldn’t be any simpler in its telling – Keanu Reeves’ former hitman is forced out of retirement after the death of his wife and the murder of the puppy that she left him – Chapter 2 broadens the scope of the film’s world dramatically. The foundations were laid the first time around; there’s the Continental, a hotel safe house for contract killers and gold coins exchanging hands for a variety of services throughout a mysterious organisation. But those are barely hints at the larger workings of the criminal empire that we get an expansion of this time (though still leaving us plenty to ponder over).
In some respects, I kind of missed the simplicity of Chapter 1 (not the Chapter 2 is hugely complicated), yet when the heightened reality of the world that Wick is a part of is handled so well, it’s difficult to grumble. There are a handful of concerns: it is at times a bit self-indulgent, John Leguizamo is given about as much to do as he did in John Wick (i.e. diddly), and a few plot threads are left without being tied up. Yet those parts that it gets right – basically everything else – it does so with a bang. Literally.
The greatest of the several strengths that the film can boast has to be its action. Ain’t nothing going to get in the way of Wick’s hunt for a quiet retirement. We’re talking LOUD, brutal, spectacularly creative violence from the off. Car chases, gun fu, fist fights, subway brawls, pencils used in ways that you never would have dreamt of in school, brilliantly farcical pot-shots – it’s just one scene after the other of craziness. Director Chad Stahelski worked on the stunts for the Matrix trilogy, as well as Serenity, 300, The Wolverine and dozens of other movies, so though it’s not surprising that the action impresses, it is amazing how many of the sequences play out far differently than you might imagine.
None of it would be nearly as believable if it weren’t for Keanu Reeves, who is entirely convincing in his use of the multitude of weaponry, and whilst naturally being in full badass mode still has lots of heart. My partner studied theatre at university, and if ever her tutor saw his actors with a blank expression on their faces, he’d say “you’re doing a Keanu Reeves”….to be perfectly honest, he can do one! Because on the evidence not only of this, but of his many other iconic roles as well, he’s pretty damn great, I’m sure we can all agree.
Rating (out of 5):