John Wick: Chapter 2 (“John Wick 2”) sees the return of ‘retired’ super-assassin, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), as his desire to resume a quiet and normal civilian life is hindered by the appearance of an old acquaintance, who calls upon a favour owed to him. Compelled to respect the assassin’s code of honour by a secret assassin organisation, John is forced back into the treacherous life of secrecy, blood-thirsty violence, and guns, guns, guns.
A neo-noir, action film, John Wick 2, directed by Chad Stahelski, takes off immediately after the conclusion of the first film, as John attempts to reclaim his stolen 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1, which was stolen by mobsters in the first film. In true epic, badass form, the opening sequence immediately sets the tone of the entire film by diving straight into fantastic action sequences and reaffirming to fans John’s status as ‘The Boogeyman’, the deadliest assassin one would not want to mess with.
Unlike the first film, which focused solely on action and violence with only a simple and concise plot, John Wick 2 attempts to incorporate narrative and a detailed plot to add more substance with the film. While somewhat interesting, the plot of the film felt almost forced, with more dialogue than necessary. What made the first film a standout was the way in which it told John’s story through effective use of mis-en-scene and action. The film managed to carry itself without any need for additional dialogue or explanations, thereby treating viewers as educated and able to ‘read between the lines’. John Wick 2 however, had aspects of spoon-feeding the audience with information, which didn’t quite sit well with me.
That being said, the sequel certainly embraced the formula of the first film and made use of key action film features to its advantage. Gunplay and martial arts sequences throughout the film were exceptionally done, with each fight scenes beautifully choreographed that it almost looked like John and his enemies were dancing. Each specific movement was carried out smoothly and with such precision that each fight scene appeared graceful rather than a messy brawl.
Visually, the sequel definitely upped the ante, with some great effects and plenty of blood, gore and violence that will leave some feeling squeamish. John certainly displays fortitude and skill with almost every possible object made available to him. What was especially of interest to me, however, was the reunion between Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne, who have not starred in a film together since The Matrix trilogy. However, the reunion was short lived with no real reference at all to The Matrix, which would have been cool!
Keanu Reeves is certainly an actor worth his salt and carries out the role of an assassin just wanting to live his own life extremely well, even going so far as to show a bit more emotion and expression in this sequel. Ian McShane’s character, Winston, is also exceptional and is welcome in the film, as the peacekeeper who upholds the code of assassins. It was a little weird for Ruby Rose to play a mute character but nevertheless, it is rather awesome to witness her slowly proving her prowess as an action film actress.
Despite interesting characters and the inclusion of more detailed plot elements, John Wick 2 is simply another mindless action film, in the best of ways. The film manages to entertain and continue John Wick’s story in a way that is gripping, with subtle humour, fantastic action scenes and characters we can identify with (somewhat). Whilst a superb film in it’s own right, it doesn’t quite compare or live up to the brilliance of the first film and isn’t one that I could re-watch over and over.