John Wick was a lovely surprise a couple years back, a film which arrived in the UK with a good bit of hype behind it from a US release months before but pretty much justified this. A wonderful juxtaposition of pared down exploitation film, the usual "they killed my ... now I'm gonna kill them all" fare with a potentially dense inner mythology about both the title character and the world he lives in, one where a hotel for assassins runs by a code which makes them be friendly within its walls no matter the devastation wrought outside. It was a breath of fresh air which reintroduced Keanu Reeves as a genuinely impressive physical actor, a man whose talents befit one decades younger than him. So then, the almost inevitable sequel arrives but thankfully it builds on the success of the first and fully embraces a world I'd be happy to see more of.
Continuing the original's trick of combining that small personal story with a larger canvas, this opens things out but feels almost as vital as the first film despite a runtime around 20 minutes longer. Yes, there are a couple of montage sequences which somewhat belabour the "John Wick's coming to fuck you all up" point but even this self-indulgence adds to the insane legend built around this man.
Wick himself is a fascinating character, a man who seems to hate pretty much everything he's doing while doing it oh so very well. People are stabbed, shot and hit with cars aplenty but never once does Wick seem to want to do any of it even if deep down an unwanted primal pleasure is had. There is an efficiency to both his action and his language which makes all the seemingly hyperbolic statements others give about him feel entirely correct. Reeves smashes it throughout, finding a role which combines his action smarts with his increasing age without feeling at all like the "Geriaction" fare of latter period Schwarzengger, Stallone or Willis.
The world here is also wonderful, the Continental of the first film having branches elsewhere in the world, and run by Franco fucking Nero no less with further detail given regarding how Contracts are set up provoking some almost surreal cognitive dissonance with early 1900's dressed telephone operators with arm tattoos using old school technology to communicate around the world. The world of John Wick feels like one left of centre of the real world, one you really wouldn't mind visiting as long as you're not being targeted.
The fact it's been a few paragraphs in at this point and the action has barely been spoken of gives some indication to how the film is overall so impressive but in fairness, the action here is crunchy, nasty and carnally satisfying in the best way. With the wide angle, energetic but not ADD camerawork of the first continuing, along with the intense sound design which makes a gun shot appear like a canon blast, the action here is played on a larger scale but has the intimacy of the first film which makes it feel all the more painful. Seeing this in Cineworld's frankly abusive 4DX moving seat mode would be genuinely pant shiningly terrifying.
So there we go, John Wick Chapter 2. A wholly satisfying sequel which for some slight lulls really goes for the jugular throughout. I await a third with baited breath.