When John Wick came out in 2015, it was received with shock. Mostly because no one thought that this generic looking action film would be any good, let alone Keanu would be so badass at 50. However it was met with praise from both critics and fans due to it’s hardcore fight scenes and the stunningly well-choreographed gun battles. The fast paced shooting made for not only entertaining viewing but also showed how slick and smooth an action film can look. It subverted the genre and showed that yes, Keanu CAN act. Well, after the surprise success he is of course back for a sequel in John Wick: Chapter 2.
The film opens almost around the time that the first one ends with a high octane chase involving John Wick in a car going after a man on a motorbike, culminating in a crash. From here until he drives away, it’s business as usual. Using his own car, he goes on an all out attack as he runs over, crashes into and beats his assailants whilst barely leaving the vehicle. Arriving at his home we see what he really wanted; he pulls out a greeting card and photo of his dead wife.
For almost an hour after, most of what we see is set up. John has a marker which he must honour as per the rules of the safe house hotel known as The Continental. Wanting to retire for good, he refuses, however after being attacked at home, he takes on his obligatory and hopefully last job. John travels to Rome to execute his target and thus begins his career as a killer once more. The overly long set up once he arrives at his destination feels baggy and boring after being handed such a stunning and brutal opening. Picking his perfect set of weapons as well as having a couple of suits made feels very James Bond and at times also reminds you of Kingsman. But it’s neither of these films after that.
Keanu isn’t quite as good as he is in the first one, his take on one of his most notable roles second time round seems slightly forced. He’s good with a gun but not much else. His conversations with Winston, and pretty much everyone in Chapter 2, makes it look as if Keanu doesn’t want to be there. Whilst Ian McShane is as cool as ever and carries each scene he’s in with his laid back no nonsense demeanour, the pair just aren’t as playful this time around.
Some fans will be excited for the Matrix reunion but even that’s not particularly interesting. John visits Bowery King, played by the slightly hammy Lawrence Fishburne, whose help he needs. But after revealing a scar created by a bullet shot by John years earlier, why would he help him? In exchange for something he’s offered in return? What is it? We never find out. Perhaps something that’s being saved for the sequel but it’s one of several plot points which is unforgivably overlooked. The addition of the wonderful Ruby Rose should have been a stroke of genius had she been able to speak. She communicates through sign language although it’s never apparent that she’s deaf. Essentially she’s boiled down to a pretty face in a suit with a gun.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, the visionary behind the first film, he seems to have forgotten that the best parts of John Wick consisted of Keanu slickly shooting people. Whilst there’s plenty of that there (I won’t tell you how many people he kills in Chapter 2 but, wow!) there are far too many slow paced sequences which adds to the overlong running time. Setting up a film like this shouldn’t take this long and Stahelski knows that. The rule of a sequel is always to go bigger, and it did. Unfortunately.
Altogether John Wick Chapter 2 is nothing like it’s predecessor. It’s heavier, longer and at times just plain boring. With another sequel in the works also to be directed by Stahelski, it’s yet another film turned into an unnecessary trilogy.
3 out of 5.
Keep. It. Reel.