Picking up shortly after the events of the first John Wick, the titular character (Keanu Reeves) is attempting to once more leave the criminals underworld and his reputation as the ultimate killer behind. However, he is called on by Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) to kill someone so that he can take their seat at the underworld’s high table.
John has a debt to Santino that the rules of the underworld say he must repay, or his life is forfeit. Feeling he has no choice, John travels to Rome to do the deed. However, escaping the underworld and repaying the debt isn’t going to be that easy, which ends up with him having a $7 million bounty on his head.
There was little interest in John Wick before its release. Indeed, many felt that this was more evidence of Keanu Reeves decline, as he’d reached the point he was making movies directed by his old stunt double. However, with its stylish looks, propulsive action and kinetic drive, it surprised many and became a far bigger success than anyone imagined.
That has inevitably led to this sequel, which is supposed to be the second part of a trilogy. It’s not quite as good as the first one, partly because its unusual style of action – part film, part graphic novel, part videogame – isn’t quite as much of a surprise this time. However, it’s still a lot of fun, and after a relatively slow setup, it certainly delivers of the action, with Keanu once more playing a character who’s virtually unkillable (helped by the fact all the bad guys seem to have gone to the Stormtrooper school of not being able to aim their guns properly).
If nothing else, I’m pretty sure John Wick: Chapter 2 must hold some sort of record for most people shot in the head, along with a whole lot of fistfights, stunts and general action mayhem.
The movie attempts to explore more of the rules of the criminal underworld, with its strict hierarchy, harshly enforced laws and endless supply of men in suits who don’t seem to care whether they survive the next five minutes or not. While a lot of that is fun, it also starts to creak at times when it can’t quite cover up quite how ridiculous a lot of it is. There are a few things that are such nonsense you get thrown out of the film for a few seconds, which is something the John Wick franchise can’t afford due to the fact that you need to pulled into the heart of its dark universe to suspend disbelief.
To be honest though it’s not too much of a problem, as when it’s good it’s great. It’s just that you may find yourself giggling at it occasionally when it does something particularly illogical. It also helps that it knows it’s not to be taken seriously, as evidenced by the loaded dialogue when Reeves reunites on screen with Laurence Fishburne for the first time since The Matrix Trilogy. It’s gets to the point where you might begin to wonder whether the film is suggesting that Neo and Morpheus are back in the Matrix again but with different identities – it would certainly make John’s invulnerability seem more sensible.
Despite its flaws it’s a lot of fun and if you liked the first movie, you’ll probably enjoy this one – even if just for the gargantuan body count. As you would hope, the stylishly visualised and choreographed film looks great on Blu-ray, and there are some decent special features. The film also does a good job of setting things up for Chapter 3, where it’ll be interesting to see how John deals with the repercussions of how things end up at the close of Part 2.
Overall Verdict: Not quite as strong as the first John Wick movie, but while things get a bit too silly at time, but style, action and ballet of killing still makes it a fun ride.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac