John Wick 2 review
Keanu Reeves may still be best known for The Matrix, but there are some who’d argue that it’s no longer his best action film. Instead, that honour lies with John Wick - which we included on our list of the best action movies ever - which came out of nowhere to be one of our favourite films of 2014. But can John Wick 2 live up to its predecessor?
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While the first film was an epic, over-the-top revenge tale driven by someone murdering John Wick’s adorable puppy, this is an epic, over-the-top revenge tale driven by someone grenade launcher-ing John Wick’s beautiful house. It’s a totally different thing. So, in the grand canon of Keanu Reeves sequels, is this more Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (good) or The Matrix Reloaded (really, really bad)? Find out in our John Wick: Chapter 2 review.
John Wick 2 review | John Wick: Chapter 2 UK release date and tickets
John Wick: Chapter 2 comes out in UK cinemas on 17 February 2017, with previews starting from 14 February 2017 - a.k.a. Valentine’s Day.
Plus, check out our guide to buying cheap cinema tickets for some tips on how to save money and get your tickets at the best possible price.
John Wick 2 review
In case you missed the first film, or couldn’t guess from any of the trailers, John Wick 2 falls squarely into the ‘big dumb action movie’ bracket, sidelining plot, character development, and just about everything else in favour of delivering some pretty extraordinary violence - in style.
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Reprising his role from the original, Keanu Reeves is the titular John Wick. He’s a retired hitman for the Russian mob, affectionately nicknamed The Boogeyman, dragged back into action in the first film after someone makes the lethal mistake of killing his dog. Beyond the straight-up revenge plot, the first film also hinted at a knowingly silly secret society of assassins, with their own currency and customs, operating out of a luxury hotel chain.
Chapter 2 delves deeper into that world as it explores the repercussions of Wick’s return to the game. There are binding blood oaths, a sommelier for guns (played to plummy perfection by Peter Serafinowicz), and a network of homeless killers - and that’s just the start. Along the way he crosses paths with fellow assassins played by Ruby Rose and Common, secret assassin hotel staff Ian McShane and Lance Reddick, and Riccardo Scamarcio’s preening Italian crime lord. Still, the film wisely leaves the worldbuilding mostly to the background, never letting it distract from the real reason viewers are there: to watch Keanu Reeves beat an awful lot of people up.
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As with the first film, the fight scenes are consistently impressive. The bravura opening both neatly ties up a couple of loose ends from the first film and reminds us just how lethal Wick is as he unleashes all manner of hell behind the wheel of a muscle car. From there things only build: a tense fight in a network of Roman catacombs recalls the best of videogame shooters without ever falling into cheap visual tricks like a first-person perspective, while the climax in an art museum puts a surreal twist on the sort of funhouse mirror fight scene eternalised by the likes of Enter the Dragon or The Man with the Golden Gun.
Just like the film as a whole, the action strikes a delicate balance between knowingly silly and determinedly straight-faced. Whether it’s Laurence Fishburne’s homeless kingpin pontificating on the nature of the criminal underworld, or Keanu Reeves somehow turning a pencil into a lethal weapon, the film somehow keeps things fun by pointedly keeping things sombre, only begrudgingly slipping into out-and-out comedy. Reeves scowls his way through a film in which hardly anyone ever even breaks into a smile, and, impossibly, it’s somehow incredibly fun. It’s a welcome change from the knowing wink-wink-nudge-nudge tone that so many modern blockbusters have adopted, letting the audience feel in on the joke without ever hitting them over the head with it.
What you think of John Wick: Chapter 2 will ultimately come down to what you thought of the first one, and what you think of action cinema in general. If you loved Keanu’s first outing as the hitman who was just a little too attached to his dog, you’ll adore this - it’s basically more of the same, but even bigger and even sillier. And if you’re a fan of action movies at all, it would be difficult to argue that this wasn’t an example of the genre done right: frenetic, exhilarating, and stylish. On the other hand, if endless violence and splatters of blood bore you to tears, John Wick 2 isn’t likely to change your mind. This Hollywood’s action machinery operating at its best, but firmly within its comfort zone.