Set soon after the events of the the first film, John Wick: Chapter Two follows the titular character John Wick (Keanu Reeves), a retired super-assassin whose desire to live a quiet civilian life is not working out very well. When Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio arrives at Wick’s door with a gold marker, he has no choice but to respect the ancient code of The Continental (a secret assassin society with branches all over the world). Wick reluctantly accepts an assignment to travel to Rome to take out D’Antonio’s sister, the ruthless capo of the Camorra crime syndicate.
As soon as the task is carried out, D’Antonio issues an open contract on Wick, which goes out wide to every assassin in the The Continental’s network, making for an interesting montage revealing how far the network extends.
This film reunites Reeves with director Chad Stahelski, who made his directorial debut in John Wick, and whose previous work as a stuntman included being Reeves’ double in the Matrix films.
This movie isn’t really about the plot, which is barely coherent and exists only as an excuse to move from one fantastic set piece to the next. These stunning, impressive set pieces will make you marvel at the level of design which went into making this film. Nothing in John Wick: Chapter 2 is done straightforward, each shot is designed and lit in a way that would make Nicolas Winding Refn salivate. Make no mistake though, the violence is at times quite gruesome: a sequence involving a usually innocuous piece of stationery had me looking away a couple of times.
Stahelski’s experience of stunt choreography is evident in the stunningly choreographed stunt sequences in this film, and Reeves’ naturally cool reticence, enormous charisma and acrobatic capabilities make an absolutely magnetic combination here.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is also a great stage for character actors. The list of supporting actors there to chew up the scenery is impressive: Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick, and Ruby Rose in a role which makes me think she could have a future as an action star. The two most brilliant cameos are by Common and Laurence Fishburne, with the former nailing the silent, deadly assassin role with real panache and his commanding presence; the latter because, well, it’s a Matrix reunion and they’re not shy about having fun with that fact.
Of course, the reason to see John Wick: Chapter Two is the action. Stahelski and cinematographer Dan Laustsen have made every shot a visual feast. They make the most of Reeve’s unique physical expressiveness and the colourful, comic book-like qualities of the world of John Wick.