Set soon after the events of the first film, John Wick: Chapter 2 sees re-retired hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) drawn back into fray in order to fulfill an oath made to the Italian crime lord Santino D’Antonio (a charming but slimy Riccardo Scamarcio). Abiding to a strict set of unspoken rules in the Assassin underworld, Wick must deal with various other crime lords, assassins and uncountable faceless goons to complete his task.
+ all the acting is great. Ian McShane again steals the show as Winston, the owner of the New York Continental Hotel, and Lance Reddick is low-key humorous as Charon, the placid concierge. New cast members Common and Ruby Rose as high level assassins in their own right are both welcome additions – I am not a fan of Ruby Rose’s acting, but I was pleasantly surprised here. It might help that she literally never speaks
+ the gun fight choreography is, once again, superb. Reloading, flanking and aiming for enemies’ exposed areas (mostly their heads…) never feels contrived, especially when you take into account Wick’s legendary status
+ this never felt like a victim of the first’s success; for example, there is another “club scene”, but instead of attempting to re-do the first movie’s shootout, this film does something different, and makes it work. The final battle is an incredible visual journey, set almost entirely inside a mirror maze
+ the world building is absolutely fantastic. A montage of Wick preparing for his next mission has him getting new clothes, weapons, and blueprints is complete with codewords and really makes you feel like there is a huge underworld, with so many different facilities avilable. The fact that everyone knows who John Wick is despite his time off really helps Wick’s status as The Boogeyman. Peter Serafinowicz steals this montage as The Sommelier, the weapons expert, who discusses various guns with Wick as if they were expensive bottles of wine (hence his name, no doubt)
+ holy shit, John Wick is good with a pencil
– the stakes this time were more personal for Wick himself, but there was no driving factor for the audience when compared to the puppy from the first film. Having the reason Wick comes out of retirement be a previously unknown story point was not a bad idea, but it relied too heavily on exposition dialogue
– Peter Stormare was very underutilised. Though he stole the only scene he was in, as Abram Tarasov, cousin of the first film’s Viggo, I would have liked to see much more of him.
> there are various connections between other media here; Reeves and Laurence Fishburne are on screen together, perhaps for the first time since The Matrix, and Ian McShane and Peter Stormare both currently starring in American Gods (though unfortunately they don’t share any scenes here)
Should you see this film: The first film was an out-of-nowhere smash hit, and one of my all time favourite action films, and this sequel took things to a new level but never tried to retreat the same water. This was bigger, longer, bloodier and more interesting, but I don’t know if I’ll say ‘better’. Either way, if you liked the first, you will definitely like this.