Chad Stahelski (director)
123 mins (length)
17 February 2017 (released)
15 February 2017
Dressed head to toe in black and looking barely any older than he did back in (the most excellent) Bill and Ted, Keanu Reeves returns as ass-kicking angel of death John Wick. The hugely satisfying result is an ultra-stylish, ultra-violent adrenaline rush of pure cinema - a relentless assault of angry, muscular action sequences, brutal but balletic hand-to-hand combat, and even a perfectly judged gag about knocking off the pope. Who says sequels never work out?
For the uninitiated JW is the hitman's hitman, feared and revered in equal measure. Others in the trade refer to him as the Boogeyman, lo spettro (the ghost), the devil's own emissary. Essentially, though, he's a slick modern update on the classic Old West gunslinger - he's just swapped a trusty steed, a six shooter and a pair of cowboy boots for an American-made muscle car, a tactical assault rifle and some snazzy Italian lace-ups. He might not be the Man with No Name, but he does have a dog with no name.
Unsurprisingly the 'story' has a familiar feel. The path back to square one is admittedly a little clunky but soon we're right where we need to be, with John the tortured, grief-stricken soul who wants out of the game but - try as he might - can't quite sever the cord. This time around he's dragged back in because of a blood oath and a high-raking, Mafioso-type wrong' un (Riccardo Scamarcio) who's more than a little jealous of his big sis (Claudia Gerini) - not that plot specifics are important. Or logic for that matter.
What does matter is that this is a big, dumb action movie made by some very smart folks, so when director Chad Stahelski presses the big green GO button it's an absolute blast watching John do what he does. With the henchman lined up we get a Home Alone-style booby trap routine down in the Roman catacombs, plus a grimly compelling set-piece where blood splatters warm and red across the cold, white interiors of a futuristic shopping mall. Not since The Dark Knight has a simple handwriting tool been used to such horrific effect.
Clearly, then, the squeamish need not apply, but - as with the original - there's more on offer than just over-the-top, video game-style violence. The underworld that Wick inhabits has a pleasingly rich and textured feel to it - there are secret doors and passageways, stashed lock boxes and even a private currency. A jaunt to Italy involves another stay at a luxury, hitman-only hotel where Peter Serafinowicz works as a sommelier/gunsmith and the tailor lines custom suits with Kevlar inserts.
John's ever-growing contact list contains plenty of characters too. Ian McShane returns as New York fixer/hotel boss Winston, while the new faces to leave a mark include mute enforcer Ruby Rose (xXx: Return of Xander Cage), Common's revenge-seeking assassin Cassian and, best of all, the pigeon-keeping general of a homeless hit squad played by Laurence Fishburne.