Director: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Peter Stormare, Franco Nero
Run Time: 122 mins
‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ is, as you guessed, the sequel to ‘John Wick’, a film that completely took me by surprise in how entertaining and thrilling it was, so much so that it was one of my favourite films of that year. It was a return to form for Keanu Reeves, who like Liam Neeson has recently, reinvigorated his career as an action star. It was witty, featured plenty of utterly bonkers action sequences and managed to do some pretty impressive world-building, introducing key concepts of mythology into this setting. What also elevated it above the average action film was how slickly and competently directed it was by former stunt co-ordinators Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, the latter being uncredited. ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ picks up almost immediately after the events of the first film and sees the titular character again not being allowed to sit back and retire, instead having to repay a debt to a crime lord he dealt with in the past. This time, Stahelski is solely directing but he has managed to recruit quite an impressive cast list with Common and Laurence Fishburne being the main highlights, Fishburne reuniting with his former ‘Matrix’ star. The film has garnered very impressive reviews, many stating it to be an improvement over the original and that it successfully builds upon the events of the first film.
‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ is a thoroughly entertaining sequel that turns the dial up to eleven and cements Stahelski’s craft at directing action – all the fight scenes are exceptionally well-choreographed. The film successfully builds on and expands the mythology that was introduced in the first installment and the film also has an absolute killer of an ending. That said, this sequel doesn’t feel quite as fresh as its predecessor and it does follow the same beats in places. What made the first film so revelatory was how much it managed to do whilst being fairly simplistic and I don’t think this film has quite managed to accomplish that in the same vein. But it’s still very entertaining and features plenty of high-octane action sequences.
The acting is as expected very witty by the cast again who all seem to be having an absolute ball of a time and aren’t particularly taking themselves seriously. Keanu Reeves continues to solidify this character as his own and I’m very excited to see where he will take this in another sequel and surprisingly, Common is very competent here as well. Maybe these are the films for him too…? Laurence Fishburne doesn’t get given that much to do but the majority of the cast from the first film return and it is very welcome to see their characters again, if only for a few very short cameos.
Stahelski really seems to know how to direct action and I would argue that along with Gareth Evans, director of ‘The Raid’ films, they’re probably the ones to beat at the moment, reinventing the genre. The film has plenty of action sequences to enjoy but I did feel that quite a few of them outstayed their welcome a little bit compared to the first film. I think the problem is there isn’t all that much variety in the way that Wick dispatches his opponents and there were a couple of instances where I did get a little bored which never happened in the first film. However when there is variety, the film is extremely entertaining and there is one sequence in particular which the entire crowd were revelling at.
The score, once again by Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richards is generally sound and boasts a few memorable themes to help aid the action. Danish cinemtographer Dan Laustsen takes over duties from Jonathan Sela and generally does a pretty good job but the film isn’t quite as dark as the first film in terms of lighting and at times, it did feel like the film was almost a performance due to the bright neon colours shining across the screen. But coupled with Stahelski, he shoots the action with gusto and there are a few interesting angles he decides to capture the action on.
Overall, ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ isn’t quite as fresh as its predecessor and the film does lack some of the simplicity and finesse that allowed that film to be as successful as it was. However, Stahelski cranks things up to eleven (especially the body count) and does it with gleeful results as the film is mostly extremely entertaining and for the most part, gorgeous to look at. It’s a good job the film ends with the storyline it does which I really wasn’t expecting and inevitably another sequel will be commissioned and it will be very interesting where the mythology and journey of this now iconic character will take us. I, for one, will be just as eager to witness the results.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ (Good)