Directed by Chad Stahelski • Written by David Kolstad
With Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, John Leguizamo and Laurence Fishburne
It’s fair to say that 2014’s John Wick took more than few people by surprise. Chad Stahelski’s rapid fire revenge tale of a pissed-off assassin out to avenge his dead puppy wasn’t afraid to poke fun at its own absurdity, helping it stand out from its peers while gaining almost instantaneous cult appeal in the process. Stahelski returns to helm John Wick 2, working again with writer, David Kolstad, and star Keanu Reeves, to deliver a rip-roaring sequel of dazzlingly choreographed violence and nod-wink humour.
We pick up with JW shortly after the events of the first movie, cutting to the action as he brutally dispatches a warehouse of bad guys to reclaim his stolen car. It serves as a firm reminder of the overall tone, quick to re-establish and go one further in its portrayal of an underlying sense of self-deprecation that identifies it as film clear in its intentions to give us a good time, without the distraction of the kind of distorted political subtext we’re fed by the likes of Olympus/London Has Fallen. Before Wick gets chance to put his feet up and enjoy retirement, he’s drawn back into action thanks to a years-old blood oath. Off to Rome he goes to finally settle the score. If only it was that simple.
Everyone involved seems to enjoy their part of the gag, fronted once again by Reeves, who continues his monosyllabic turn between impressive bouts of heightened gun-play and hand-to-hand combat. As a shadowy overseer, the presence of Ian McShane contributes much to a playfully enigmatic underworld of assassins, which extends itself much further this time.
While the choreography of the action is breathtaking to behold, it’s often apparent our exhilaration doesn’t entirely stem from the suspense of the scenes – more a marvel at the organised chaos on show as Wick goes full-sugar Rambo in gunning down an endless production line of brainless henchmen, all seemingly happy to take turns in running directly into his line of fire. Without the wry tone that underpins everything, they wouldn’t get half as much license to indulge themselves in this way.
There’s little in John Wick 2 that we didn’t get in the previous offering, but there’s a lot more of the same, played with understanding by those involved. There’s a glitch in the matrix when Laurence Fishburne shows up for around 15-minutes to spout some wisdom, which slows the pace and plays like an unwanted Neo/Morpheous reunion. Also, the plot goes bonkers at the end and threatens to boil over, yet that carefully woven sense of fun keeps it afloat as the promise of a third chapter looms.