If 2014’s John Wick proved to be one of the biggest surprises of the last few years worth of cinema, the fact that its sequel is bigger and better than its predecessor is even more surprising. Managing to follow the winning formula for sequels to a tee, this second chapter in the John Wick story does more of the stuff that made the first so successful, but builds upon it at the same time. And the end result is one of the most fun cinematic experiences I’ve had so far this year.
The ‘chapter’ of the film’s title is key. This is very much tied directly into the assassin’s first outing, opening with a sequence that seems to take place only days after the events of the last film. Returning director, Chad Stahleski, wastes no time at all in turning the action all the way to eleven, in a set-piece featuring a destruction derby of death and metal while Wick sets out to reclaim his beloved stolen car.
One thing is clear from the off: with a bigger budget and studio confidence in the franchise, the action is going to be taken to a whole other level than the first, which is saying something considering just how violent and relentlessly action-packed the original was. But if you thought John Wick was brutal, this is even more so. Blood splatters the screen frequently from all the headshots Wick bestows upon an army of henchmen, bones break and crunch from with each punch to the point where you can almost feel the impact yourself, and that’s all before you even see what he can do with a pencil.
There’s certainly a video-game quality to the ‘Wick’ films, but more than that, there’s something about this style of action film that taps into a forgotten era of action films for grown-ups, films like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon from the 80’s, which a whole generation holds such great fondness for. And so it’s easy to see why so many people have ended up with so much affection for this series.
Like the aforementioned movies, this is just so much fun. Stahleski manages to pay homage to this forgotten sub-genre of action film, relishing in the absurdity of the film’s concept and b-movie trappings. Because of this, John Wick: Chapter 2 isn’t just a thoroughly thrilling and exciting watch, but often hilarious too. Within the first ten-minutes, there’s at least five big laughs as a result from dialogue that feels like it were taken from a bottom shelf, straight to DVD actioner. Yet because this is completely intentional and the film is so self-aware, it works.
Whilst one of the biggest draws of the original was its relatively simple concept of a hitman avenging the death of his new puppy, this continues to world-build around the rules and politics of the assassins that have already been glimpsed. Here, Wick is sent on a mission to Rome to honour an unbreakable commitment he is ordered to uphold, in spite of his protests that he is retired. With a European location, an attractive female target and multiple agents who aim to kit out Wick with all the top range assassin gear, there are times where this feels like it’s trying desperately to be James Bond’s dangerous cousin.
It is when Wick sticks to do what he does best, however, where the film really takes off. And once he is back on home ground and faced with a multitude of colleagues out for his blood, it proves far more entertaining than when the story tries to build a complicated story. Fortunately, it would appear that the franchise seems to be heading toward the latter aspect in ‘Chapter 3’, which you’ll undoubtedly be left wanting to see as soon as this instalment’s credits begin to role.
Packed full of action that will have you on the edge of your seat, violence that will leave your jaw hanging open, and plenty of laughs along the way too; John Wick: Chapter 2 is the type of film that is best enjoyed with as big an audience as possible. It’s a crowd-pleasing and immensely entertaining blockbuster that has set the bar high for 2017. It’s going to take a lot to top it, that’s for sure.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com