John Wick: Chapter 2

 

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The ghost of John Woo is alive and well and killing in New York - and Rome.

 
John Wick Chapter 2
 

There’s a scene in John Wick: Chapter 2 that is set on the rooftop of a New York building. There, Keanu Reeves meets up with Laurence Fishburne, the latter who is tending to his pigeons. Keanu plays the former hitman John Wick who has been forced out of retirement in order to honour an old pledge. Fishburne is the crime lord dubbed ‘The Bowery King’, and is only too aware of Wick’s current predicament, which has resulted in the wholesale slaughter of a multitude of heavily armed extras. “You’re not very good at retiring,” Fishburne observes. “I’m working on it,” comes Keanu’s reply. It’s a high note in a monotonous orgy of killing and Fishburne, in a roster of well-known faces, eats all his co-stars off the table. And, noting the $7 million bounty on John Wick’s head, he exclaims, “It’s Christmas! We’re going to Applebee’s after this.” It’s good to see the two actors together again, generating fond memories of their time in the altogether superior The Matrix. And as the Bowery King ministers to his pigeons, it recalls another ruthless criminal who sought similar avian respite, namely the drug dealer Marlo Stanfield in HBO’s The Wire.

 

And that’s the problem with John Wick: Chapter 2: it is a hodgepodge of scenes nicked from better movies, culminating in that old favourite, the shootout in a hall of mirrors. There’s nothing original in this formulaic sequel, although in its later stages it does attain a certain bloody majesty, thanks largely to the sleek cinematography of Dan Laustsen and the unceasingly inventive production design of Kevin Kavanaugh. Starting out like a direct-to-video quickie peopled by sneering B-movie villains, the film moves into more grandiose John Woo territory, laced with a deadpan black humour. A large chunk of the sequel is dedicated to an interminable duel between Keanu and Common, which begins in Rome, pauses for a chummy drink at a hotel bar, and continues in the New York subway, where the two actors shoot at each other while strolling along with their seemingly oblivious fellow pedestrians. It’s surreal, to say the least. Fans of John Woo’s affinity for endless shootouts might think they’re getting their money’s worth, but video game devotees may feel they’ve already played the game.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan, David Patrick Kelly, Peter Stormare, Franco Nero, Peter Serafinowicz, Claudia Gerini.

 

Dir Chad Stahelski, Pro David Leitch, Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee, Screenplay Derek Kolstad, Ph Dan Laustsen, Pro Des Kevin Kavanaugh, Ed Evan Schiff, Music Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard, Costumes Luca Mosca.

 

Lionsgate/Thunder Road Pictures/87Eleven Productions-Warner Brothers.

122 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 17 February 2017. Cert. 15.