Thursday, 15 June 2017

John Wick Chapter 2

Did John Wick really need a sequel? A return of $88m from a $20m budget means that it made good fiscal sense, while it was received well by a majority of critics. The stylised shooter was better than the average action flick, while most could empathise with his road to vengeance. Whether it be his dog or his car, Wick (Keanu Reeves) is most definitely a fan of disproportionate retribution.

Clearly he’s not a man that should be crossed, but it happens once again as somebody who should know better decides to attack him at home. To be fair, Wick does owe a blood debt, and refuses to even hear out an offer that sees his house destroyed in the process. Unsurprisingly, the Boogeyman is awakened once more, although his pet dog survives this time, in a wise decision by the filmmakers.

The imaginatively named sequel continues in the same vein as the first, although it adds meat to the bones in terms of the previously mysterious assassin guild/hotel chain that framed much of the original. We learn more about  the rules of the Continental, whilst a command structure is established for the 12 criminal groups that control the underworld.

More importantly, Wick dispatches countless enemies with his trademark headshots, which makes sense considering the bulletproof suit provided by Peter Serafinowicz. There's no bad acting to be found in this sequel, with slick performances from the assorted mooks and hotel staff that make up the majority of the cast. Neo and Morpheus are reunited once more, as Laurence Fishburne makes his debut as the Bowery King. His network of vagrants add another layer to the criminal network, and its great to see they've lost little chemistry over the years.

The plot of the first is expanded as the film attempts to realistically portray a guild of assassins who operate in plain sight, while Wick continues to battle for both retirement, and the possibility of a quiet life. Neither proves to be possible, but it does make for meaty fighting and gory carnage along the way. There's a clear contrast between the beautiful settings and the violence on show. The blood oath creditor and main antagonist Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) is undoubtedly slimy under his veneer of civility, but he does have great taste. 

The action is visceral and elongated, although they sometimes lack more punch than in the original. The car chase opener is an example of action done right, with further exchanges sometimes proving to be a little repetitive. Wick ends with 128 confirmed kills. That's a lot of bad guys, and it can feel a little tiresome as he double taps yet another suited guard into submission. There are a few infrequent lulls, though the majority kept me compelled to continue watching.

Stellar moments are frequent, though at times it feels like the film has slightly disappeared up it’s own arse. It’s not convoluted, but there's less of a thrill as it slowly builds after a strong opening. Fans of the first will find more to love, and a third has already been confirmed. The sequel hook at the end seems like it could have been more interesting than the film itself, but that's at least partly because of the buildup of tension over the film, and the way the story is told.

We now have a greater idea of the threat facing our retired assassin, and the immediacy of the situation means a third is likely to continue from close to where we left him. It's a little long-winded at times, but it's worth watching for the scenery porn alone. The gun-fu is generally mesmerising and the humour tends to work, wrapping up into a neat, bloodied package. I personally preferred the original, but I still want to watch the third. With a budget of $40m and a box office return of $166m, you can see why they'd make a third chapter.


James Millin-Ashmore

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