Fans of Keanu Reeves and the first John Wick movie will enjoy this sequel. In the first movie, John (a Russian hitman known as the Boogeyman) takes on the Russian mafia and kills the lot of them singlehandedly (no, that’s not a spoiler). The premise for doing so is that they killed his dog and stole his car. Strangely, that premise made the first movie so emotionally compelling that most viewers could ignore the movie’s minor shortcomings (apparently, it was something of a surprise commercial success).
In the second movie, Keanu takes on the Italian mafia and kills the lot of them singlehandedly (come on, that really isn’t a spoiler). His premise for doing so is that they blew up his house. Hmm. Not quite as compelling a reason as the first movie – indeed, this second chapter lacks the ‘heart’ of the first chapter. But you know what you’ve signed up to when you’re watching a sequel. This second movie is a visual and stylish delight (like the first), with very Matrix-like retro-phones and steampunk touches in the Edwardian hotels, etc. And then Laurence Fishburne turns up (aka Morpheus in the Matrix), making the referencing, vibe and styling complete. Yet it seems so much style over content. The fighting style (‘Gun Fu’) is fascinating to watch, but when the body count gets near the two hundred mark it really is more than a tad repetitive. And Keanu himself looks great – but is still as wooden an actor as ever he was.
This second chapter DOES move the franchise on, however, with some decent world-building, an interesting use of homeless people, a homocidal deaf girl, several cryptic references to ‘the high table’, increased use of the Boogeyman mythos and the effective use of social paranoia. It is worth the watch for fans of the series. And good news: The Third Chapter is due out in 2019. Hurrah!