Release date: 17th February 2017/Watch the trailer here
John Wick is a testament to the power of word of mouth: a 2014 action film with a modest budget, it passed the majority of people by when it first opened in cinemas, yet managed to become a cult classic seemingly overnight; so much so, in fact, that Chapter 2 has succeeded in surpassing its predecessor’s entire box office gross in just eight days.
Thankfully for fans of Keanu Reeves’ eponymous ex-hitman – who came out of retirement in the first film to seek revenge on the men who stole his car and killed his dog – the sequel is not only bigger, but quite possibly better. In Chapter 2, John Wick may have a new four-legged friend, but he’s still unable to shake his ties to the criminal underworld that he was once a part of. He is paid a visit by Italian crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who comes to John wanting him to repay a debt. It was D’Antonio who helped John with the ‘impossible task’ of his retirement, and in doing so John swore a blood oath via a ‘Marker’, a medallion which represents an unbreakable contract.
The real joy of John Wick comes from the world that the first film created and the second film builds upon; a world in which hitmen have their own hotels, bars, clubs, tailors, and even a currency; and a world in which there are just two rules: no killing on Continental ground, and all Markers must be honoured. It is this unbreakable rule that sees John coming out of retirement once more, venturing to Rome to carry out the favour that he owes D’Antonio, where the wonderfully ridiculous world of John Wick is expanded even further.
As is fitting for a film about a secret society of trained killers, the rest of the real fun of John Wick lies in its action and violence, which is frequent without ever feeling gratuitous. Perhaps it’s because each and every one of the film’s many action set pieces and individual fights are so meticulously well-choreographed to the point of being almost elegant. A frenetic fight scene bathed in the neon lights of an outdoor concert kicks off the proceedings, but each fight takes in an inspired new location: from the catacombs of Rome, to a subway train knife brawl, a dizzying hall of mirrors, and the most inappropriate use of a pencil since The Dark Knight; John Wick is always the very furthest thing from dull.
It’s evident that director Chad Stahelski – the former Matrix stuntman who has returned for directing duties from the first instalment – knows exactly what works for John Wick, since the film very rarely hits an off note. Chapter 2 is relentless without ever overstaying its welcome, prevented from becoming mind-numbing in its brutality by the intrigue of the richly developed world it also has to offer.
A third and final chapter in the John Wick saga is alluded to, and while it can’t come soon enough, it will certainly have some big, bruising, bloody shoes to fill.