The aptly named John Wick, everywhere he goes fire and devastation is sure to follow like a deathly shadow. An elite assassin just trying to enjoy the quiet life, Keanu Reeves plays the stoic and almost superhumanly tough former killer for hire that can barely go five minutes without some kind of gunfight, car chase or brawl. Chapter two of his story is no different – in fact, the stakes (and the budget) have been raised.
Picking up mere hours after the completion of the first film, Wick now having retribution for the murder of his dog, goes to reclaim the other memento that the foolish Russian gangsters took of his; a 1969 Mustang. Following this, we are given an insight into the inner workings of the esoteric world of organised assassins, which is multifaceted and complicated beyond the movie’s description.
Deeply intertwined into this fictional reality, these people are everywhere; they’re buskers, homeless people, businessmen… literally anyone except for some unmistakable reason, the police – who are non-existent in this universe – despite multiple and constant lengthy shootouts on busy New York streets.
I’m convinced this film is an homage to video games, and John seems to be playing it with cheat codes on. He doesn’t die when he is shot numerous times; there is a safe house where there is immunity from other assassins (kind of like a save point in the game) and the flow of the film rivals level structure. John goes to any location, whether it is a rave, taxi rank or museum and basically kills a whole bunch of faceless men then fights a boss at the end to progress to the next challenge. All leading to the final and inevitable confrontation with a big boss baddie who set off the whole journey.
The minutia of what is in between is redundant, I mean, like Ruby Rose plays a deaf person and Laurence Fishburne is there for an unofficial Matrix reunion but, do we care about the intricacies? John Wick is about ACTION! And there is that in spades. Two car chases in the first five minutes – HELL YEAH! A tailor made suit that deflects bullets – WHY NOT?!
It’s important to demarcate this from superhero movies or bombastic blockbusters because the point of John Wick is to hark back to the slick and tidy action movies of the 1990s and early naughties. What they lack in a huge cast and cities to destroy are made up for in tight editing, refined and detailed cinematography and a whimsical tone that strives to entertain more than a challenge.
Downsides? I think as the series grows in popularity (and spoilers, there’ll be a third chapter at least) John Wick will become more conformist, more ‘Hollywood’ and there are sniffs of that in the sequel. Instead of being the hunter, he is the hunted and what was so cool about the first film seems to be missing here.
This doesn’t detract from what is overall, however; a superb shoot-em-up flick and Keanu Reeves is the man as per usual.