Film review - John Wick: Chapter 2
Chapter 2 is a sinew-crunching throwback to the golden age of action movies. As the eponymous super-assassin Keanu Reeves is imperiously glum – a bummed-out reaper with an endless selection of scowls and a skill-set that includes the ability to kill three men with a single pencil.
Around him stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski has constructed a meticulous comic book universe, brimming with murderous cults, Da Vinci Code-levels of intrigue and bonkers honour codes. Say hello to the irony-free Dan Brown - Jean Claude Van Damme crossover you didn’t know you needed.
In the original John Wick, Reeves exacted gory revenge against a Russian mobster who strangled his puppy. Job done, our anti-hero is set on retiring from the killing-people-with-pencils game so that he can devote quality time to moping over pictures of his late wife (apparently the only person in his circle of acquaintances to die of natural causes).
However, he’s dragged once more into feral fray when mafia nasty Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls in an old debt.
Off Wick whooshes to Rome with instructions to eliminate D’Antonio’s scheming sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini) – but not before he treats himself to a bullet-proof suit (black naturally) and consults with a Jeeves-style weapons “sommelier” on the best firearms for the gig.
What follows is top-rate hokum, with the eponymous killer disposing of an army of goons first person shooter style in a never-ending crypt. Back in New York, meanwhile, the traitorous Santino takes out a contract on his hireling and every hit-person in the city – there are quite a few, it transpires – is soon getting on Wick’s wick.
The most persistent is Cassian (rapper Common), a stickler for rules – assassins are forbidden from fighting in Ian McShane’s Continental hotel – yet not above opening fire in crowded subway platforms.
But the film really belongs to Keanu, who disavows the traditional winking-to-camera and instead embraces the silliness with monastic solemnity. John Wick: Chapter 2 never pokes fun or arches a eye-brow and the result is an action movie that stands toe-to-toe with the greats of the genre. The way the world is right now we need all the popcorn escapism we can get and this one is a slam-bam knockout.