Film Editor Alex McDonald finds out whether John Wick Chapter 2 can live up to 2015’s unexpected sleeper hit
The first John Wick has no right to be as good as it is: The plot is by the numbers, it’s directed by stuntmen and Keanu Reeves hasn’t made a good action hero since the 90s. Yet against all odds, it became an instant cult classic and is one of the hidden gems of 2015. But when your sequel loses its shock factor, can it ever live up to its original? Thankfully for fans of slick action thrillers, John Wick Chapter 2 does just that.
Picking up immediately after the first film ends, John is once again trying to settle into the cosy life of a retired hitman with his new, nameless dog. However there’s no rest for the Wick-ed as a figure from John’s past comes to drag him back into the firing line. The Baba-Yaga is back, baby.
John Wick Chapter 2 proves once again that Chad Stahelski and David Leitch are two of the best action directors working today. The hand-to-hand combat, the Gun Fu and the car chase scenes are all shot beautifully and at a respectful distance; action aficionados will rejoice at the lack of quick edits, close ups and shaky cam on display. The film’s opening nod to Buster Keaton lets you know that you’re in for a stunt-thrill ride and that’s exactly what you get.
However, none of it would work without the immortal 50 year old that is Keanu Reeves. He sells every punch and looks at home handling an array of guns. In a world of superheroes with moral codes, John Wick is a refreshing no nonsense badass who shoots for the head and doesn’t miss. It’s not only his action prowess that makes Reeves perfect for the role; he plays the character with a wink and a nod and delivers every one-liner with absolute conviction. Keanu Reeves was born to play John Wick.
One of the things that made the first film so brilliant was how expansive the world felt. In John Wick Chapter 2, we delve into the world of mobsters and assassins. While the extent to which the organised crime permeates society on a global scale pushes any believability firmly into absurdity, the film is so confident in its universe that it’s hard not to just accept this heightened reality. It also manages to achieve this fully fleshed out world with notably little exposition which is extremely commendable.
Where the film does falter in comparison to its predecessor is in its emotional investment. That being said, there isn’t an easier way to get an audience on the side of the hero than killing his puppy (don’t worry, the dog doesn’t die in this one!). However when the plot is initially propelled by circumstance as opposed to character, it does lose some weight. But when you come to watch a one man army gun down a countless number of goons, you can’t really expect Citizen Kane levels of story-telling. Also, the ending of John Wick Chapter 2 isn’t exactly subtle in its set up for a Chapter 3. It is sequel baiting at its worst. But I would kill to see the Boogeyman back in action so no one is really being short changed here.
VERDICT: John Wick Chapter 2 is exactly what you need from a sequel. Stahelski and Leitch’s elegantly violent style is bigger and better to create a symphony of vengeance, bloodshed and mayhem. Wick is a man of few words that lets his bullets do the talking in arguably Reeves’ greatest film role (sorry Johnny Utah). If you like great action and gloriously cheesy one-liners, John Wick Chapter 2 is an offer you can’t refuse.