SEQUELS are rarely as good as the original. But John Wick: Chapter 2 is no ordinary sequel, delivering brutal action and a measured slickness rarely attained in the action genre.
Taking place mere days after the events of the last film, we catch up with the titular assassin (Keanu Reeves) as he fights his way into the lair of a gangster who has his beloved ’69 Mustang he thought had been destroyed.
All John wants to do is finally retire but alas demons from his past come a-knocking, namely suave museum owner/heir to the Italian Mafia, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who wants him to pay up on an unnamed debt.
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After he refuses, Santino retaliates with a force that means John can’t refuse, sending him on a course that will see him clash with just about every other assassin out there.
This sequel examines and reinforces the very idea of the mythical “can he really ever be killed?” action hero in a knowing fashion while at the same time playing right into that mould. Reeves was born to play this role and he once again dives into it with commitment and a twinkle in his eye.
The Chapter 2 of the title is not just there for the sake of it; this is an action sequel that satisfyingly explores the underworld of assassins merely hinted at in the first film, run by its own set of rules, hierarchy of power, unique currency, safe zone Continental hotel and codes of honour that are adhered to no matter what. As heightened and preposterous as it is, the world feels gritty, real and expansive.
Once again directed with verve and style by stuntman and stunt coordinator-turned-director Chad Stahelski, the action sequences are simply tremendous; ferocious as they are plentiful, hefty and muscular in the face of today’s over-CGId action movie world. They are beautifully, seamlessly choreographed so as to not really feel like they’re choreographed at all.
On occasion it can feel like it’s repeating some of the action beats of the first film – a shootout in a loud and flashy club, reloading a gun midway through shooting someone et al – but it’s pulled off with such panache that it hardly matters. It rarely takes its foot off the pedal or its finger off the trigger, from its brutal opening set-piece (which most action movies would be happy with as their finale) to its ambitious, eye-popping finale. It might just have the highest body count of any action movie in living memory.
And therein lays the crux: this follow-up knows what its audience wants and delivers it to them in spades, entirely self-aware of its own status as a sequel to a surprise hit and what that means in terms of escalating the action. This is a blistering, balletic barrage of bullets, blades, bodies and blood that shows other action sequels how it should be done.