It has shown how long I have been doing this that I am not starting to get to the stage where I can now say I have reviewed multiple times follow-ups to films I have already reviewed for the website. I reviewed John Wick when it got its UK release, way back in 2015 and to be honest I probably didn’t give it enough credit. On the second viewing of this film, I actually think I like it more. When I closely examined it, it had everything I like about what you can do with an action film right now, paired with the rather under-used 80’s revenge film plot. John Wick was nothing ground breaking, but it was still dam good and it got to show a side of Keanu Reeves that he hasn’t displayed in a long time. Now, when a sequel was announced, I was rather sceptical because the story was pretty much over by the end of the first film. Was there anywhere for it to go? Well, yes, apparently, there is because the movie has been made and has been put out there, or at least you hope so. The film not only returns starring Keanu Reeves, but also the director Chad Stahelski, a former stunt coordinator, who has worked on several high profile films, including many of the Hunger Games films (see my review of Mockinjay part 2 for my opinion on those films) and 300, though John Wick is his only directorial credit. Although, apparently he is going to be the director of the up-coming Highlander re-boot. He is once again joined by the first film’s writer, Derek Kolstad. In all honesty, considering how poor the recent action films I have seen like Resident Evil the Final Chapter, which I did a mini review of last week, and xXx The Return of Xander Cage, I was really up for a proper good action film. The question is, did I manage to get that?
John Wick: Chapter 2 is a rather apt title, because it takes place directly following the conclusion of the first movie. John Wick (played by Keanu Reeves) believes he is completely out of the game having killed everyone he set out to kill and avenging the death of his dog and getting back his car. There’s just one problem, however, out there, Santino D’Antonio (played by Riccardo Scamarcio) says that he owes him a debt now that he is back in the game and he won’t be able to escape it unless he assassinates his sister Gianna (played by Claudia Gerini) in Rome. Now Wick has assassins on all sides after him with a 7 Billion Dollar bounty on his head, including Cassian (played by Common) and Ares (played by Ruby Rose). What is Wick’s way out of this one?
Now as I said, I appreciated John Wick on a second viewing. I was expecting that this one might be the same deal, that I would be reviewing it saying that I suspect I will appreciate this more when I have a second viewing, but right now I think it’s ok. Fortunately, that is not the case, I actually think that John Wick: Chapter 2 is my must see film right now. It would have been easy to turn this into a carbon copy plot of the original film, fortunately that is not the case. In the original film it was a basic revenge plot, so we had John Wick the hunter and it was a case of not ‘if he’ll get his target’ it’s ‘when he will get his target and how’. In Chapter 2 we see Wick more in space of being the hunted and we see what John Wick is like when he is not in complete control. The film seem to be going for a real anti-Bond vibe and not in the sense that it hates the James Bond films and wants to comment on how crap it believes they are, it’s more he wants to be a anti-hero version of James Bond, not helped by the fact that there’s a bit of globetrotting in this one. Though I will say that the Rome setting is used to its full advantage, what’s more, we also seem to be getting a lot of the Q gadget type people turning up in the film as well. That doesn’t mean, however, that it has lost its edge and it’s now going to be Wick girls, believe me, it’s still recognisably a John Wick film and you would never confuse the two. It seems like Keanu is really moulding this character into his own. He seems to really like the character and it seems like this is a role where he has had the most fun in a long time. If there is an issue to have with the film, it’s the fact that we are seeing more of this world and we are feeling the various rules like no fighting in areas associated with the company, i.e. the hotels that the assassins are staying in. We realise something, which seems very much like the director is preparing for his Highlander remake and you begin to realise that they have not answered a lot of questions about how this whole thing works. That being said though, they don’t really have to. It has a similar quality to another great action film in the last couple of years, Mad Max Fury Road. As the nostaglgia critic pointed out at the start of his review, with that film, it doesn’t give you everything, but it gives you enough to connect the dots yourself and the John Wick films seem to have the exact same quality. I would say there is absolutely no issue I had with the film in that sense, however, I did feel that they needed to put a little more meat on the bones. The only issue I can find with the plot, is that a lot of the characters that were rather popular in the last film get rather fleeting amounts of screen time in this one. I would say, however, that I am glad it’s that way round rather than they become over exposed and take up too much time on the plot, as we saw an example of in films like the Hangover movies, where popular side characters got way too much screen time in the sequels.
If there is one weak point in the film, it’s the villains. Not the other assassins. I actually kind of like the other assassins. We’ve got Ruby Rose’s Ares who communicates only in sign language and is giving off a dam better performance than what she did in xXx The Return of Xander Cage and this time comes off as a really great bad ass and I appreciate the fact she looks like she has taken the time and effort to learn the sign language and as a result she looks natural with it. Common is also surprisingly really good as an action star, he really puts his effort into this role and I really appreciated it, and he really raises the game for the standard of rappers in films. Santino D’Antonio, however, is kind of a weak villain, he is not really on screen enough to leave much of an impression. The only thing he does really is destroy John Wicks house at the beginning of the film, other than that, he is more of an outside figure in the whole thing. Granted, when he is allowed to be on screen, he is a good villain, I just wish we had felt more of his presence throughout the entire film, plus, if all the other assassins can tell he is an obvious jerk and is clearly out for himself, why haven’t they excommunicated him by now? I’m pretty sure he has broken several rules. The only other complaint I could say is that there are a few too many side characters to facilitate a few of these cameos, but, that being said, they don’t take up too much time in the film, so I am not bothered by it. Honestly, it’s a really simple but good plot and I liked it very much, there’s not much more I can say about it than that.
The actors are all pretty dam good. Italian actors Riccardo Scamarcio and Claudia Gerini do an excellent job in their positions. I already mentioned that I really liked the performances of Ruby Rose and Common. The cameos are also pretty good, including John Leguizamo, who unfortunately doesn’t get as much time as he did in the first film and Peter Serafinowicz, who seems to be turning up in minor roles in just about everything these days. Lance Reddick, who was my favourite performance in the first film is unfortunately rather limited in this one, but when he is on screen, he still gives a deliciously brilliant performance. There is also a small role for Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King, who is another one of John’s contacts, though, while he does very well in this role, my cynical side says he has been put in this film just so he is paired with Keanu again as some wink to the audience to say ‘yes, these two were both in the Matrix together’. Honestly, when Laurence first turned up, I was half expecting him to offer him a red pill and a blue pill, so even I’m not immune to this. But the standout performance is Keanu Reeves, who I am glad has already expressed interest to be playing this character for a good amount of time. He really has been missing his calling as an action star. He’s certainly better in this than he was in any of the Matrix films.
Now, as for the presentation, well the only thing to really talk about is the cinematography and the fight scenes, and my goodness, they are both brilliant. The fight scenes are so brilliantly choreographed. I may be repeating myself from the previous review, but the fact that Chad Stahelski is coming from the background of a stunt coordinator means he knows how these action scenes flow and he knows how to get the best out of his performers. The scenes are shot perfectly, there are very few cuts and the cuts flow brilliantly together. You feel like you are watching a full fight because I can follow everything that happens and there has clearly been a lot of effort put into it. I have seen some footage from behind the scenes and the trainers that they have got to work on this have been excellent. Plus, the effects have really been spent to make the exit wounds of the blood look realistic, so as a result, it means that you feel the brutality of all the fight scenes. When someone gets stabbed, you feel them get stabbed, when someone gets shot, you feel them get shot and so on and so forth. Plus, they come up with some interesting creative locations to have these fights and make excellent use of it. Unlike the first film, John does not come off as being invincible from these fight scenes, you do believe one of these guys could possibly beat him, or at least seriously injure him. The cinematography compliments this beautifully. I loved the cinematography in this film and it really should be up for the Oscars in 2018 in that category.
John Wick: Chapter 2 complements the first one perfectly. They are both dam good action films that I thoroughly enjoyed and this one is no exception. The plot is really good, the fight scenes are expertly shot and the performances are very good as well. The dialogue can be hokey at times and there are a few plot holes to kind of fill in but they are nothing that break the film as a whole. Honestly, this could already be going into my ‘Best films of 2017” list. On a lot of levels I enjoyed it more than the previous film but on other levels I think the first film did certain aspects of it better. Honestly, I think its best to take the two as a whole, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like this film as an individual. Dam no, this was fantastic.
The ending indicates there is going to be a sequel and IMDB and Keanu Reeves are already speculating there will be and I really hope there is because I think they are primed to do it and this could be an excellent film series that I would want to come back to.
Well that’s it for this week. No mini reviews since I saw this only a couple of days after Lego Batman because there was a special preview screening on Valentines Day. Luckily though, I can now get the train back into Liverpool again, so I will start getting more mini reviews. Having said that though, there won’t be one next week because I saw another film between my last two!!!
Come back next week where I will be reviewing the first of the DC Animated films of 2017, Justice League Dark.
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