“So yeah, I’m guessing I’m back”… 3 MONTHS LATE TO AUSTRALIA. Add this to the list along with Get Out and Lego Batman of great movies that, for unknowable reasons, came late to the land down under. There’s a pattern appearing here I don’t like.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) is an action-thriller sequel to the original John Wick written by Derek Kolstad and directed by Chad Stahelski. It once again stars Keanu Reeves as the titular John Wick who is dragged back into the assassin underworld when an old friend returns to ask for an irrefusable favour.
John Wick may long for retirement, but its a damn good thing for audiences that he’s sticking around. The original surprise hit had some of the best action in years, and Chapter 2 is no exception. Its clear that director Derek Kolstad started life as a stunt coordinator, because not only does he clearly love and respect the work that goes into action sequences, he does his absolute damnedest to show it off in all its glory. Long takes, gorgeously violent choreography and a fantastic visual style makes every gun-kata throwdown in this movie worth the price of admission on its own. I’m beginning to wonder if stunt coordinators should just direct all action movies going forward. Might actually kill off shaky-cam.
These action extravaganzas are all well implemented into a decent plot that expands on the scope and world-building established in the first. While it definitely lacks the emotional weight and simplicity of the first film, the world this franchise has created is so interesting and stylish that even just exploring how this entire assassin secret society is interesting enough to keep engagement high. That being said, as cool as this world tries to be, it can’t help but come off as bordering on ridiculous at times. For some there’s going to be too many leaps in logic to be comfortable with, but if you buy into the world and how it works, then it is well worth it for the slick, interesting ideas on display.
At the centre of all this is Keanu Reeves himself. Reportedly doing all his own stunts, the man is a tour-de-force when it comes for slightly hammy but hardcore line delivery. Clearly Reeves has committed to his role as ‘the Bogeyman’ that is John Wick, and its clear through all the long takes and fantastic choreography that he is dedicated to his character in a way many action stars are not. That being said, almost everyone outside of Reeves is relatively forgettable. Supporting roles from Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne (Matrix reunion!) are great, but outside of that there’s little more to write home about. Riccardo Scamarcio as the man who drags John back out of retirement is fine but nothing spectacular, and Ruby Rose and Common as two fellow hitman are great in the action but so-so outside of bullets and punches. Regardless, the film knows this is a one-man show of Reeves and thankfully the man is up to the challenge.
Further issues with Chapter 2 involve a few scenes that go on too long and moments that need greater explaining, but for the most part this movie delivers everything one would expected following from John Wick. Some of the best action in the business, a great sense of style, solid world-building and most significantly goddamn Keanu, Chapter 2 should be on every action junkie’s hit list right now.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Recommended
Cultists: Highly Recommended