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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

John Wick Chapter 2 movie review: Keanu Reeves’ action sequel is pure fire & gold

John Wick Chapter 2 movie review: Keanu Reeves stars in an action sequel for the ages. It expands on everything that made one such an instant classic, without being obnoxious about it.

movie-reviews Updated: Feb 23, 2017 09:39 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
Yeah, Keanu Reeves is back all right.
Yeah, Keanu Reeves is back all right.

John Wick: Chapter 2
Director - Chad Stahelski
Cast - Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Ruby Rose
Rating - 4/5

The last time we saw John Wick, the Baba Yaga, the man who it is said once killed three men in a bar with a pencil (a pencil!), he had just wasted eighty to a hundred fools in a beautiful, bloodbath of vengeance. And, like any self-respecting action hero, he was walking off into the sunset, a new doggy companion by his side. All was well.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is here to put a bullet into that theory.

It picks up mere minutes after the first one ended, which, like its assassin hero, came out of nowhere. It was, at least to my mind, one of the best original action movies of the last decade. And the cult of fans that gathered to witness its symphonic mayhem has only grown in the two years since its release. You can begin chanting a silent prayer of thanks now, because John Wick: Chapter 2 (by the way, what a great title. The only thing that can improve it is the word ‘reloaded’ somewhere. Anywhere) is pure joy.

As great as the first one was – no action film has come close other than perhaps Mad Max: Fury Road since – it did have a villain who was pushing 50 and had a pot belly and all. In this one, instead of an elderly gentleman whose main plan of attack was to invariably make some phonecalls, the villain is much better suited to John Wick’s unique skills. He coerces Wick to travel to Rome, where he is expected to take out his sister, whose position of power on a council of high importance he (the villain) wishes to usurp.

John Wick, the samurai that he is, accepts the mission – because what is he, if not a man bound by honour. But the spiffily-dressed (actually, everyone in the movie is rather spiffily dressed, except perhaps Laurence Fishburne) villain stabs him in the back, and puts out a hit worth $7 million on Wick’s head.

But he forgot. This is John Wick we’re talking about. It is said that he once killed three men in a bar with a pencil. Whoever they send after him, whatever they send after him, he will kill them all.

It’s one thing to focus on style over substance, but John Wick: Chapter 2 takes it to a whole new level. Every line of dialogue – and God knows Wick is a man of few words – is spoken with such intensity that it seems as if language itself is going to be outlawed. The action, however, is why we turn up. And the movie knows it. It makes you wait, for almost an hour, toying with your expectations, expanding the already fabulously detailed world, as what can only be described as dubstep opera plays in the background and Keanu Reeves glowers, Clint Eastwood-style.

Action sequels are tricky. They’re difficult to get right. What do you do? Do you go the route of, say, a Die Hard 2 and make everything bigger and add more explosions, or do you go for a Fast Five and completely reinvent the wheel? John Wick 2 hits the sweet spot. It ramps up everything that made the first one such an instant classic without ever being obnoxious about it. It’s bigger, yes, better, yes, but never extravagant.


For a film whose sole purpose, it seems, is to ‘get John Wick a gun,’ it is impressively cinema literate. But so was the first one, wasn’t it? Everything from stylish ‘60s spaghetti westerns to the ‘70s neo-noir of Melville to glorious ‘90s Hong Kong gun-fu is paid homage to. Were it not for the clunky dialogue (which is mostly in either Russian or Italian and floats on the screen, all colourful), it could easily inspire the sort of video essays and thinkpieces that Tarantino’s movies do. Heck, it should anyway.

But its biggest achievement, bigger than destroying and redefining an entire genre, is that it has given the great Keanu Reeves a character that is as memorable as Ted (from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and Neo (from you guessed it). And there will be more. There has to be more.

No story has just two chapters.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar