It’s high time we all admit that Keanu Reeves has something special.
If you placed another actor in the lead role of John Wick or John Wick: Chapter 2, no one else would work. There’s something to Reeves’ identifiable walk, his almost-robotic fighting style and the way he stares down the camera that makes him irresistibly magnetic. Sure, his acting might be wooden, but strangely, it doesn’t matter.
It’s also helpful that Reeves’ Wick character is dead inside already (following the death of his wife and puppy) and isn’t much of a talker. Most trained assassins with a legacy as huge as John Wick’s don’t need to chit-chat. And everybody knows John Wick, from Central Park in New York City to the secretive cloisters of Rome. One utterance of his name and people snap to attention.
Filled to the brim with action just like its predecessor, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a violent gun-lovin’ orgy with enough inventive deaths to keep the most cynical viewer entertained.
OK, how violent are we talking?
Pretty dang violent. Wick’s trademark is the “pencil kill,” which I’ll let you imagine for yourself. Rest assured that’s addressed in this sequel. Wick never runs out of innovative ways to kill his pursuers, and the audience cries of “oohhh!” and “ahhh!” don’t dissipate throughout the movie’s two-hour runtime. There are also some epic car-chase scenes, with gorgeous vehicles (that probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars) being crushed into unrecognizable heaps of twisted metal. But if you’ve seen the first John Wick, then you’ll have no problem making it through this one.
Is there any humour in the movie?
It’s that dry Keanu humour, where things aren’t supposed to be funny, but somehow are. Whether it’s the delivery of a certain line or the way another character talks about Wick, it’s always a clever subversive nod to the fact that the movie’s premise is ridiculous. That could be what makes this movie (and the whole franchise, actually) so appealing: it doesn’t take itself seriously. The powers-that-be behind this film know their audience and play directly to them.
Any great cameos like the first one?
Several. But the top award goes to Laurence Fishburne, who appears as a crazed-yet-all-knowing pigeon lord, otherwise known as Bowery King, who seems to live on a rooftop in New York City. Of course, Fishburne and Reeves starred together in a little movie called The Matrix, so there are inside jokes about that. No spoilers on that here.
How are the fight scenes?
Fun to watch and very impressive. Normally, with action-packed movies, the fight scenes can grow stale and repetitive. In John Wick 2, there is constant innovation with the fighting, and while some 1-on-1 battles look choreographed, it can be forgiven because of the sheer volume and variety of fights in the film. Another example of the intrinsic humour occurs in a fight scene on what seems to be a neverending set of stairs. Wick and his sparring partner keep on falling… and falling… and falling. Yes, self-parodying and self-deprecating to the end, John Wick 2 goes all meta on us and it’s wonderful.
So what’s the bottom line?
For die-hard action film fans, or any fans of Reeves, this is a home run. Some might complain that there’s too much violence and gun worship, but this is your warning before going in: if you don’t like violence or guns (or heaven forbid, Reeves himself), then don’t waste your money on this movie. If you’ve been waiting with bated breath for this sequel, sit back and relax. You will love it from beginning to end.
(Bonus tidbit: It looks like there will be a John Wick: Chapter 3, based on some pretty obvious hints in the dialogue.)