Film review: John Wick: Chapter Two – He’s back alright

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Director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves return with an adrenaline-fuelled thrill-ride that ultimately leaves something to be desired.

Picking up right where the action left off in 2013’s ‘John Wick,’ ‘John Wick: Chapter Two’ sees the black-suited, gun-wielding hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) pulled back out of retirement in order to repay a blood debt and absolve himself of his ties to the criminal world.

In true action movie style, our hero relentlessly lays waste to an untold number of henchmen, seemingly never breaking a sweat. As one character aptly remarks, “You’re not very good at retiring.” – “I’m working on it.”

What ‘Chapter Two’ does best is devote the majority of its two-hour runtime to insane, high-octane and unflinchingly violent fight sequences. It goes without saying that the fight choreography and sound design is almost unparalleled in the context of modern action films.

Like its predecessor, ‘Chapter Two’ is a well-nuanced love-letter to the cheesiest examples of action cinema. It respectfully nods its head to the likes of Michael Mann’s ‘Collateral’ (2002), culminating in a not-so-subtle homage to Robert Clouse’s ‘Enter the Dragon’ (1973).

These references are of course warmly received, even if it means the film sacrifices a part of what little identity it has.

Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2

That is really the biggest criticism of the ‘John Wick’ series thus-far. Whilst ‘Chapter Two’ places a little more thematic importance on ‘reflections of the soul’ and the unrelenting struggle to leave behind the only life you know (hello to ‘Carlito’s Way’), it is just a collection of admittedly enjoyable sequences that are loosely-connected by a weak story and poor writing.

By no means is the point of the film to analyse the intricacy of the human soul but unfortunately, no matter how exciting the fight scenes are on their own, it’s not difficult to end up a little bored. It’s true that violence in movies works best when it has meaning and weight; choreography can only get you so far.

For pre-existing fans of the series, rejoice in knowing that ‘Chapter Two,’ whilst weak on story, at least does the lore of the Cinematic Universe justice. We see more of the world these hitmen inhabit, from the hidden gun stores in hotels to tailors who specialise in bulletproof suits.

For the second entry in a relatively young series, ‘Chapter Two’ is more than serviceable. It raises the bar and turns it all up to 11, setting the precedent for what the franchise actually does aim to achieve: exciting you.

To best summarise the sequel would be to say it’s more of the same, but everything is louder, more extreme. If you thought the legend of John Wick taking out three guys with a pencil was something, then brace yourself.

It’s difficult to say if I was disappointed because in many ways I got exactly what I was expecting. It outshines the first in a myriad of ways, but it still feels a long way from being something truly meaningful.

John Wick: Chapter Two rating – 6/10