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John Wick: Chapter 2


‘…if the element of surprise has gone, there’s plenty for genre fans to soak up in Chapter 2, not least Reeves’ impeccable, graceful presence as the world’s best assassin…’

As with the Terminator films, the sequel to John Wick faced a specific challenge; how to expand the universe of the first film while staying true to the stripped down ethos that was the original signature. The first John Wick prototype barely lasts eighty minutes, and that brevity and focus is a big part of the appeal; much as I’m currently looking forward to the fourth installment, due out later this week, I’m a bit concerned by a 169 minute run time in a series that has shown some signs of bloating already. Not concerned enough not to turn up on the opening day, obviously.

Taking place a mere four days after the first film, John Wick 2 takes the franchise in a different, international direction, taking Wick (Keanu Reeves) over to Italy for some adventures and then back to NYC with a price on his head; it’s fun to see Franco Nero as Julius, the manager of the Hotel Continental in Rome. Like The Fast & Furious movies, the John Wick films seem to have a magnetic power for several generations of action stars; if the kids come for the stunts, the combat, the fu (horse, knife, dog or gun) and the cool, older viewers will also find much to revel in with the old pals act.

Wick’s gradual distancing from his handler Winston (Ian McShane) and the establishment at the Continental Hotel provides a wider frame than the revenge theme of the original .The late Lance Reddick also has a memorable turn as Charon, the Continental’s appropriately-named concierge, but much as I love to see Peter Serafinowicz, he’s in the wrong movie as Wick’s weapons master; John Wick doesn’t need a Q or any borrowings from the old-hat narrative structure of Bond.

Chad Stahelski’s film also takes time to investigate elements of the Wick mystique, including a graphic illustration of Wick’s ability to wield a humble pencil as an offensive weapon. The action, including a terrific car-wrecking sequence as an opener and a delirious art-gallery shoot-em-up, delivers in spades, and if the element of surprise has gone, there’s plenty for genre fans to soak up in Chapter 2, not least Reeves’ impeccable, graceful presence as the world’s best assassin.


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  1. The first Wick was sensational especially as it came at a time when Reeves had lost his screen mojo. Like you, I was worried a sequel would fizzle out or get overblown. Instead, it cleverly expanded his universe, ramped up the action and left you desperate for Chpater 3. I was so intent on avoiding all sight of JW 4 that I completely misread the title here and thought that’s what you were reviewing.

    • Yup, not seen a frame of JW4, and hope to keep it that way. The first film can’t be repeated, but they certainly expanded the world with positive results more often than not. There’s no fifth film mooted as yes, so I guess this is Wick enough for now…

    • That is the place to start. Saw it in Union Square NYC and was blown away. Now is your chance to enjoy a good action thriller!

  2. Best of the first three movies in my book. Don’t understand the love for the first film, which was crap. Third was just a retread of this, but with more junk calories.

  3. While I’m going to be watching the Wick movies once they hit streaming, I feel that the magic is gone.
    The first move succeeded not only because of Wick’s unparalleled violence but because of his humanity in conflict w that violence.
    This movie made it all about the assassin side and I just didn’t find that nearly as interesting. Plus, the longer the franchise goes, the worse the writing.

    • I think we can agree that the first film is one of these unrepeatable lightning in a bottle hits that, like Die Hard, appeal to anyone with a bit of moral gumption. That’s a five star movie right there.

      With each film adding 20+ minutes to the running time, there’s a danger that the core gets too diluted; that’s what I’m bracing for. But 2 and 3 are plush action movies, even if they can’t, and don’t even attempt to, recapture the vibe of the first one. It’s something else now, and while not as good, I still dig it.

        • I guess there’s still some prime real estate in making more films like the first one…that sense of morality and humanity is sorely missing in cinema generally…

          • I always hold up RED and RED 2 as how to make a decent action movie and sequel. I enjoyed both immensely and thought they did a great job.

            And honestly, if Die Hard had just filmed the first and then skipped to the 3rd and finished, I’d probably praise that one too. But they didn’t. So I can’t.

            • We live in a world where franchises promise something more, but usually deliver something less. John Wick and Die Hard are two examples of getting it right first time. The Red films work for me too, first more than second.

              Die Hard 2 is good as spectacle, but the tension and smarts are gone.

    • This movie was still pretty good on the character/humanity side of things, I felt; you can see how John is trying to avoid being sucked back in to life he left behind and his fear and desperation when it turns out he can’t.

      Haven’t watched #3, because I feel that’s where the shark was jumped.

      • I think the franchise itself is quite consistent, but that notion of Wick wanting to stay out is key; otherwise he’s just another assassin in a world full of them. I fear world building and time wasted with new characters, when these appeal of Wick himself is diluted. I like all of these films, but the first one is such a potent first shot. The third has moments worth the expanded runtime.

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