Stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski, screenwriter Derek Kolstad and star Keanu Reeves return for this sequel to the first John Wick three years ago. The results are more neo-noir-ishly stylised and distractingly convoluted but just as preposterously violent.
An unusual US/Hong Kong/Italian/Canadian co-production (the original was US/Chinese), John Wick: Chapter 2 offers the 53-this-year Keanu a chance to look super-cool in fancy threads, do almost all his own crazy stunts after three more months of intensive training, and barely change his facial expression throughout as only Keanu can.
It’s only a few days after the events of the first film and feared, even-boogeyman-like hit-man John has had barely time to relax and mourn his late missus Helen (Bridget Moynahan in flashbacks and video glimpses) when he ventures out to retrieve his stolen 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 from a bunch of baddies headed by Abram Tarasov (Peter Stormare briefly hamming it up as a relative of the first film’s villains). After shooting, chopping, strangling, smashing and running over a few dozen, he leaves Abram unharmed, as he now supposedly wants a peaceful retirement. As if such a thing was possible.
Aurelio (John Leguizamo again) takes the ruined car away for repairs and John is visited by Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who reminds him of his criminal contract, and John initially refuses, but is reminded of that underworld code business by Winston (Ian McShane), and further persuaded when Santino burns John’s house down. John is then forced to travel to Rome to murder Santino’s sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini) so that Santino can move up the criminal corporate ladder, and this leads to John’s drawn-out pursuit by bodyguard Cassian (Common) and his targeting back in New York, which he weirdly seems to find surprising.
It’s too long and unfocused compared to the concentrated simplicity of the first film and with too many familiar faces popping up and wrenching you out of the ludicrous action (Australia’s Ruby Rose, English comedy fave Peter Serafinowicz and even ‘60s /‘70s Euro-star Franco Nero). John Wick: Chapter 2 tries to make up for the mess by having Wick extravagantly kill 87356 people.
That’s fine if all you want is extreme, testosterone-drenched, gun-fetishising carnage, but anyone looking for, say, logic, need not apply, especially as our dour protagonist defies the trend for masochistic action heroes who actually get hurt and emerges towards the end with a few scratches and a bit of a limp.
An almost intriguing final sequence also hints at a third entry which could be titled… what? John Wick 3: At The Very End Of His (And Our) Wick?
Rated MA. John Wick: Chapter 2 is in cinemas now