It’s common knowledge that lightning can’t strike twice, and this is a phrase that’s commonplace with sequels, but John Wick: Chapter 2 is one of those examples where that isn’t the case, since this one of the best action movies of the year so far. The first John Wick took audiences by surprise with its brilliant action and was a great vehicle for Keanu Reeves, who sort of fell from the public eye for a while before re-emerging big time, resulting in a cult hit like no other. This takes everything you enjoyed from the previous movie and elevates it to a whole new level of awesome excitement. The scope this time round has a beauty to it thanks to its talent, sheer effort and hard work, the stunt choreography and relentless violence, plus the love and passion for the project, which is present throughout.
The plot sees the titular antihero once again forced back out of retirement by a shady former associate who has his sights set on seizing control of the shadowy international assassins guild of the Continental. This secret underworld was semi-established in the previous instalment and this sequel expands on this mythology by revealing the wide global reach of its extent. A marker due to a debt he made in the past binds Wick, and so he heads to Rome to pay it in full, only to lead him down a spiral of deceit and gunfire.
Even though many of the creative talent involved in the previous film returns, this sequel doesn’t fall into the trappings of sequels by feeling like a cheap rehash/knockoff of its predecessor, so kudos to screenwriter Derek Kolstad for maintaining that fresh energy it had before. This takes John Wick from New York and goes more international, yet it’s still character-oriented and it’s still about Wick struggling between the lines of staying retired and wanting to embrace his dark side. Like before, this film is a ballet of gunplay and martial arts, and it all feels masterfully choreographed to perfection with the camera constantly focused on capturing every frame of the action, without devolving into the cheap techniques of shaky-cam and scattershot editing that is known to plague action movies of late, particularly the abominable Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
The fight choreographies here are some of the most creative and complex on the big screen since The Raid, and props to, not just the stunt co-ordinators, but also the actors who were absolutely committed to making those sequences look and feel authentic and visceral. Keanu Reeves especially spent months and months training his arse off to perfecting every stunt and dedicating so much of himself to bring this character to life. Common proves to be a great foil to Reeves with their fight scenes proving to be the real highlights of the film, whilst Ruby Rose digs her teeth into a silent but deadly role that makes much better use of her talents than xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.
Much like The Empire Strikes Back, this sequel goes to some darker places than before and teases big things to come for a third movie, yet this is done without feeling cynical or unearned. This leaves you wanting more, which is something that is rare amongst sequels and it’s all thanks to director Chad Stahelski for bringing this world to life. With John Wick, Keanu Reeves has found a character that is perhaps more iconic than Neo in The Matrix, and it’s because of this franchise that his career is revitalised in a huge way and if you want a great example of how action movies should be made then John Wick: Chapter 2 is the movie for you.
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: CHAD STAHELSKI / SCREENPLAY: DEREK KOLSTAD / STARRING: KEANU REEVES, COMMON, RICCARDO SCAMARICO, IAN MCSHANE, RUBY ROSE, LAURENCE FISHBURNE / RELEASE DATE: 12TH JUNE