There are only so many sequels that live up to the original. There are even fewer that threaten to eclipse it.
The successor to the film all your friends told you about and that you couldn’t wait to show everyone else, Keanu Reeves’ sleeper hit gets a follow-up only too ready to dial up all the signature beats from his first outing, here drawn back into the fold of international assassins through a debt owed to a shadowy acquaintance.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, himself Reeves’ former stunt double on multiple projects, there’s a kinetic thrill to seeing the roles reversed between two talents who work so incredibly well together. It is undeniably Reeves’ who is front and centre throughout the action, deploying his gun-fu skills, martial-arts chops and too many head-shots to count in a series of wide-angle, continuous-shot sequences compelling in and of themselves for a reliance on its star’s commitment to his role rather than special effects or the frustratingly fast-cuts evident in thematically similar, lesser films.
Joined by Common and Ruby Rose, only two cogs in the international conglomerate of sorts of assassins, as well as Ian McShane and Lance Reddick who reprise their roles from the original as the front-face of the Continental Hotel, the sequel thankfully goes much deeper into the language and currency (quite literally) of this elaborate underworld only teased in the original. Suited up with bullet-proof three-piece suits and armed with the latest and loudest weapons of destruction, several exhilarating sequences akin to the stand-alone thrill of the first film’s night-club shoot-out, including an assault on a concert in Rome and a climactic stand-off in a museum’s hall of mirrors, itself a coy allusion to Enter The Dragon, suffice to say do not disappoint.
The one respect in which the film does let itself down is its second act premise, no way near as engaging as the apparently inexplicable but oh so effective driving force of a man out to get revenge for the death of his dog, this too serving as the basis for the opening sequence which follows on directly from the first film. Summarily deciding to do his former acquaintance’s bidding, the character we know from his first rampage would have had a much more direct response to a provocation, as evidenced by Chapter 2’s third, and best act. Wick’s motivation here is decidedly hazy and more a function of convenience for the plot than anything else, though if you’re judging these films for their plot alone, you’ve walked into the wrong cinema.
With a befitting cameo from a personality in one of Reeves’ and Stahelski’s former filmic juggernauts, watching Reeves take on an eclectic mix of ever-aspiring assassins is a pure delight, and certainly one that old and new fans of the original cult-favourite will relish.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is in cinemas on May 18
John Wick: Chapter 2 on Film Fight Club