Alright, who’s not dead, sound off! For those who don’t remember ‘John Wick’ I must ask, what is wrong with you? ‘John Wick’ remains to this day one of the most visceral and thoroughly enjoyable films I’ve ever experienced. It was action film making at its absolute best. It has successfully brought back the star power of Keanu Reeves and the action remains to be some of the best I have ever seen. And for once we got a sequel announcement that I could fully get behind. ‘John Wick’ had opened up and interesting world with great possibilities for a sequel. And now I have seen ‘John Wick Chapter 2’ after two years of waiting.
The story to the first film was very simple, here things get a bit more complex. I don’t wish to spoil any of it really so I’m going to be deliberately vague for a moment. John Wick has started to settle down after avenging the puppy in the first film. But then circumstanced bring him back into the criminal world. He finds himself in the middle of a coup far greater than any other attempted within the organisation and ends up with enemies on all sides. Gun play and knife fights and fisty-cuffs ensue and we have our film. Now to be as unvague as possible, remember that dog he gets at the end of the first film? Well, it’s alive and well so dog lovers fear not.
John Wick as a character never lost a moment of charm throughout this whole film. He is still everything we remember from before; strong yet vulnerable, charismatic yet blank, he’s got a soft heart yet he’s a blood hungry monster. Keanu Reeves could never be replaced, he isn’t playing Wick, he is Wick. And he does of course blow us away in the action scenes (and also everyone involved in them). There are many other characters who shouldn’t be ignored either. I won’t go into much detail with them; some return from the first some are completely new. Some follow us throughout the film, others are only in two or three scenes. Yet not a single one feels wasted or uninteresting. Yes, it certainly helps that they are played by actors like Ian McShane, Lawrence Fishburne (back from ‘The Matrix’ with Reeves it appears), Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Common (oddly enough), Peter Serafinowicz, Peter Stormare and Franco Nero. They all get the same treatment, simple yet effective. Which is a sentence that can sum up this whole film.
As before the action is phenomena. From start to finish it’s all a blast to watch. Unlike the first one there isn’t much build up, you are just thrown into the deep end with this one; but we know the character now and the start is where the first left off so it feels right to happen the way it does. Besides, with the spectacle delivered there is no right for anyone to complain. It only goes from crazy to crazier too. We have a fight in a wreck-yard, then one in Roman ruins, then one in a hall of mirrors and so on. All keeping with the same visceral style as the first one. But I must say that this one had the most “Oooooh” moments in it. If you are like me and cringe when you hear an arm or leg go “snap” as it is wrenched then expect to say “oooh” a lot. It’s all entertaining and never gets tiresome. The fact that it is all exceptionally well directed, shot and choreographed makes every single move made all the more impressive. Yes the blood is CG, but considering how much there is and all the stunts being done to cause so much blood, I think they’re allowed to save a bit of money.
Something that this film does, and ‘The Raid 2’ did this as well, is it builds on the world that we are introduced to in the first film. It is very welcome; we actually see how the gears in this killing machine work and, while never realistic (of course it’s not), it’s fascinating to watch. I always wonder how certain things were conducted in the first film, and now I know and it makes things all the more interesting looking back. That is exactly what a sequel should do, especially to an action film like ‘John Wick’. The worst thing this could have done was feel like more of the same. To me they were different enough in plot, pacing and style that I could easily see both of these films as their own separate thing.
Sadly ‘John Wick Chapter 2’ is not the greatest sequel ever made, with its own fair share of issues. I was vague on the plot because I don’t want to spoil it, which is exceedingly hard to do with how convoluted it is. In building the world, which I am glad they did, they threw a bit too much information as us for one easy watch action film. There is also one plot development given about Wick’s past, that sadly takes away from the scare factory “Baba Yegga” has given himself. The pacing got a bit lax in moments and I found myself asking for more action in some quiet moments. So it is a bit messy. And then there’s the unavoidable comparisons. I loved the characters in this, but I preferred the characters in the first film. I loved the action in this, but even the best action scene doesn’t match the nightclub scene or the fight with Miss Perkins in the first. And Wick’s motivation for getting back into the fray is sadly not that compelling. It’s less of a deep emotional attachment to him and his efforts and more of “the plot told us to do it”.
In the end ‘John Wick Chapter 2’ still has enough power to knock you on your back, even if the first film is more tightly wound. If you loved the first one like I did then this one is a definite must see. Ignore the likes of ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ and watch something really worth a bit of time. Mindless yes, but expertly so. There is some sequel bait to this film, so I hope that the third one is on its way. And when it arrives, well Wick has already given the plot away; “I’ll kill them all” he says. After these two, I believe him.
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