Directed by an ex stuntman and martial arts fighter Chad Stahelski the success of the first John Wick came out of left field and the film and went on to make four times its budget and revitalised the career of Keanu Reeves whose previous films had got progressively worse and worse culminating in the box office bomb that was ‘47 Ronin’ a hugely expensive film that never recouped its original $175m budget.
‘John Wick’ proved that, despite his obvious limitations as an actor, given the right vehicle Keanu can shine. And the right vehicle here screeches across the screen in a blistering car chase as he is pursued by a motorcyclist in a full on pedal to the metal action fest and ending in a down and dirty fist fight in one of the grimiest opening sequences ever with Reeves in an immaculate suit rolling around in oily puddles all for the sake of getting his car back despite it being wrecked in the process.
But the formerly pristine car he magically transforms into a wreck is as nothing compared to what happens to his house when lead villain Richard Scamarcio as Santino visits him wanting his mafia marker favour that he is owed by Wicks repaid in the form of having his equally villainous sister bumped off in her Rome home. As a refusal often offends, which is the case here and Santino finally convinces Wick by laying waste to his house using a rocket propelled grenade launcher – a technique the Editor often resorts to when it comes to our deadlines. Persuaded, Wick takes on the job to kill Santino’s sister only to find a double cross and him now fleeing the sisters vengeful body guard played by rapper Common who we we’re surprised to learn does not have the surname AsMuck. Also along for the ride seems to be every assassin in town drawn to the contract killing of Wick by the $7m bounty now on his head.
There is something gleefully old school about the brutality dished out here with some gut wrenching violence with an array of weaponry used for fatal headshots and legs as a particularly favourite target for the lethal assassin. Blood sprays up walls, floors, in fact you name it that’s where Wick administers the fatal shootings dispensing with the seemingly unending army of bad guys. Yes, when the violence comes it is at times excruciating notably a scene with of all things, a pencil, is used to off a couple of thugs. Reeves revisits the skills he learn from The Matrix with both his fist fights and gun play, changing gun cartridges with astonishing slickness. Which is just as well as his character arc is minimal and no one would admit to hiring Reeves for his interpretation of lines.
The film also sees the return of familiar faces including Ian McShane as…well…….. Ian McShane, as well as John Leguizmo whose scene is so brief it seems to have been shot when he had a morning free. Perhaps most surprising is the British actor /comedian Peter Serafinowicz as Sommelier who, rather than dispensing advice on fine wines, issues lethal weaponry and wears what looks like a Jim’ll Fix It medallion which may explain why he took up work as an armourer to defend himself from the creepy DJ. Ruby Rose, who is having a bit of a bumper year so far having already appeared in ‘XXX Return of Xander Cage’ and ‘Resident Evil : The Final Chapter’, crops up again here as Santino’s mute bodyguard who, when it comes down to it, turns out to be useless frankly and is thrown around like a ragdoll. In fact her androgynous look here reminds you more of Nicholas Hoult twin sister. Laurence Fishbourne crops up again and shares scenes with Reeves and together its almost look like a Matrix reunion.
For fans of the original as well as those new to the franchise this will not disappoint. Its surface sheen and sheer bravado revels in its own numbing brutality and the film is confident enough (and rightly so) to set itself up to run directly into a Chapter 3 which, if the end of this is anything to go by, will hit the ground running.
Here’s the trailer…….