Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane.
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Cert: 16 Running Time: 122 mins
Release Date: 17th February 2017
It is a treat sometimes to return to the familiar, to take another adventure with John McClane, James Bond, Jason Bourne – an action outing led by a character so well defined both in motive and ability, that we sit down happily to enjoy another outing. In 2014 with the release of John Wick, another action icon was born. The success of the film with critics and audiences screamed for another instalment and so at last John Wick has returned.
There’s a reason the first film was so seminal. It marked the return to form of Keanu Reeves in a tailor made role, the kind so physically demanding as to require the laser precision prep Reeves is famous for. It was a simple revenge story but it was weaved into a rich tapestry of a world of killers and their code. And it was directed with style and fervour by former stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski, bringing us bone crunching action in a world almost as cool as John Wick’s suits. There was also the matter of his car, the 1969 Boss Mustang – an echo of its driver’s prowess – balletic in performance and relentless in its pursuit.
Chapter 2 offers up everything a sequel should. More of what made the first so great but with extra helpings on top. What it also has, is a cracking story – a legitimate reason for Wick to hit the streets again and returning writer Derek Kolstad has given John a stormer to play this time round. When an old colleague Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio), the one who helped him get out of the business years before, calls in a marker, he finds himself in Rome for a hit that will open up a whole new world of trouble and put a price on his head. Pursued by his peers, one of them Cassius (played by Common) seeks his own revenge on a professional grudge and so we are treated to a number of incredible action set pieces as John does what he does best.
The combat is relentless. Measured and precise, you can see every punch, kick and gunshot, all to the frenetic beating soundtrack so effective in the first. Bullets fly, knives stab, Wick kills over and over in a body count sure to top the last film. Stahelski knows his way around the action for sure but he also knows how to set the tone for the piece and bring Kolstad’s script to life. There is unexpected darkness that rises above the carnage and also humour, used sparingly but to good effect as John is asked in Rome if he’s “here for the Pope”. The setting itself is entirely appropriate given the religious iconography that dominates the John Wick universe.
He himself is described as “old testament” and “the devil’s emissary” with Wick returning to his vocation, a celibate man in black. There is a reverence, a church like calm to the safe haven of the ‘Continental’ hotel whose Rome branch is no less welcoming to the killer elite. The production design is a blend of gothic and modern, beautifully realised from the rooftops of New York and Rome to the subterranean tunnels below them. The subway scene is a blast of light and colour, while the catacombs of Rome are lit sometimes only by gun flare.
Blue eyed Scamarcio, brings a Shakespearean cool while Ruby Rose commits to a mute role while letting her hands do the talking. An appearance by Laurence Fishburne works beautifully and bristles with nostalgia and Peter Stomare too is great as a mobster listening to the carnage wrought by the devil as Wick annihilates his best men. As John prepares himself for Rome, his business of purchasing guns, body armour and intel are brilliantly done with a great cameo from Peter Serafinowicz as the Sommelier of firepower.
This is no dime a dozen rehash. Great thought and execution has gone into John Wick’s return. They are world building with every film and I for one can’t wait for the third instalment.