JOHN Wick was an unlikely box office hit, to say the least.
The story of a retired assassin who goes on a rampage of revenge after thugs kill his dog was just bonkers enough and the action just fun enough to be surprisingly entertaining.
John Wick: Chapter 2 was never going to be able to match the so-bad-it’s-good premise of the original, so it doesn’t even try; instead, it begins with an extended action piece in which a terrified villain summarises the plot of the original as Wick (Keanu Reeves) dispatches a conveyor belt of faceless villains to bring the audience back up to speed.
Once achieved, the film can settle into its new plot.
That’s not to say Wick doesn’t have to lose something to find the right motivation to once again come out of retirement. This time it’s his house and, more importantly, his family photos, at the hands of Italian crime boss Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio).
D’Antonio forces Wick out of retirement to repay a debt but then makes the mistake of trying to eliminate him to tie up loose ends.
This paves the way for Wick to go on another violent rampage, eliminating thugs and would-be assassins, including a silent Ares (Ruby Rose) and principled Cassian (Common).
John Wick: Chapter 2 is the latest in a string of films in which ageing actors reinvent themselves as violent action heroes (Liam Neeson in Taken, Kevin Costner in 3 Days to Kill), but has managed to top them all.
It does this by never taking itself too seriously. There is violence and gore aplenty, but it is so over-the-top and hyper-stylised that it is likely to make viewers laugh instead of cringe.
It is also beautifully shot, again delivering original and colourful locations for its action pieces, including a dance party and modern art museum.
John Wick: Chapter 2 never strays too far from the story and style of the original, but it doesn’t seem to matter.
And just when you think the premise might get boring, it delivers a jolt at the end that will have you waiting for Chapter 3.THE ESSENTIALS
John Wick: Chapter 2
Director: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Ruby Rose, Laurence Fishburne
In cinemas May 18
Reviewed by: Dave Friedlos