Monday, 20 February 2017

'John Wick: Chapter 2' Review

After carrying out brutal vengeance, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) returns to the quiet life of retirement until Italian gangster Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up at his home. D'Antonio wants Wick to return favours from the past and take out a target for him. Wick reluctantly obliges and becomes a target in the assassin world for a large sum of money. 

Keanu Reeves looked to have finally escaped that typecast character he had been associated with ever since 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure' with 2014's 'John Wick'. Three years later, Reeves is back alongside director and former stunt double Chad Stahelski to try and recreate the success of the first film in the series. The combination proved dividend as 'Chapter 2' can stand up next to the best action sequels of all time.

One of the main aspects that gained the first 'John Wick' a lot of praise is simply for how it filmed its action. The decision to focus more on stunts and choreography using wide angles was very successful in a time where fast cuts and shaky cam were dominating the action genre. Strangely, the film's main praise was that it simply showed you what was happening in the action which you would think was common sense. Instead, Stahelski put other action filmmakers to shame and he continues to do so in 'Chapter 2'. The films biggest strength yet again is the action work created between Stahelski, Reeves and countless stunt doubles and extras. The use of martial arts alongside weaponry is used to perfection, bringing sleek, stylistic, unique action to a genre where it is hard to continue to do something fresh. In ways that the 'Bourne' films inspired new techniques of action filmmaking, we can only hope that the 'John Wick' series has had the same effect.

What 'Chapter 2' succeeds well with is not create a complete carbon copy of the first film. It's been made pretty clear what the driving forces behind the first film were and with the trailers, many thought the same setup would've happened. However, the film continues to build upon the assassin world and with this, it brings a new story whilst still connected to the first film. There are enough new elements in this film that make it able to stand alone, unlike many others that really rely on what has happened in previous films. Stahelski's experience in the genre seems to have left a mark on him as he has seen first hand what can happen with action sequels. Thankfully, he learns from the mistakes others have made in the past and makes sure that he doesn't add to the list of awful sequels. 

What helps the film succeed is that the assassin underworld is very deep and interesting, leaving wanting you to see and learn more about it. Taking place alongside the present day, the world building is exceptional as Stahelski builds upon the Continental hotel with further services and ways that the assassins blend into everyday life. The settings in the film are perfectly suited to the film, creating magnificent looking areas to showcase the incredible action. The first film showcased a beautiful nightclub scene and 'Chapter 2' looks to match with some incredible scenes, including with the cleverly and masterfully down room of mirrors scene.

The tempo is kept fast paced for the most part with the final act delivering all across the board. The start of the film also establishes Wick exacting the final moments of his revenge, bringing the satisfying action early on. Between these points is where a lot more of the establishing of the story takes place which does slow the film down. This aspect is fine but the characters that we meet aren't overall improvements on the previous film. Ruby Rose' deaf character does bring something new and interesting to the story but the main villain D'Antonio isn't as great as Michael Nyqvist or even Alfie Allen's characters. There isn't as much hatred for these villains which just goes to show that there is no bigger crime in Film than killing a dog.

'John Wick: Chapter 2' is exactly what an action sequel should be like. If you're a fan of the genre then this is one that you should most definitely check out. Reeves is excellent as the titular character yet again but a whole lot of credit has to go to director Chad Stahelski. Stahelski puts most directors to shame and has a set a standard of action that everyone else has to match in this year of big money, action blockbusters.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'John Wick: Chapter 2'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor