John Wick Chapter 2 director Chad Stahelski makes his and screenwriter Derek Kolstad's intentions pretty clear in the sequel's opening sequence. An aerial shot of a city at night punctuated by the sounds of revving engines and vehicles colliding ends up on the side of a building on which a Buster Keaton silent comedy is being projected, the sounds seemingly supplying an impromptu soundtrack. A suggestion perhaps that audiences shouldn't take things too seriously, as the filmmakers clearly don't. They just want you to suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours and have fun. Which is probably just as well as several moments of far-fetched absurdity are littered throughout John Wick's reluctant return to the life of a professional assassin after the son of a deceased Italian crime boss trying to become the new head of his family asks him to honour a 'marker' which includes a blood oath after helping Wick leave the business and marry his wife several years earlier.

Wick's near indestructibility certainly stretches credibility as he is shot, kicked, punched, stabbed and hit by a car a couple of times and yet still continues his relentless quest for vengeance (and that's even taking into account the state of the art bulletproof material sewn into the lining of his suit). Plus if this film is to believed, practically everyone in New York are potential assassins for hire ready to make Wick's day even worse than it is already.
Thankfully this ultra-violent, non-stop action film is so slickly made and enjoyable that such moments only add to the fun, rather than take you out of it.

Keanu Reeves sensibly plays things as taciturn and straight as he did first time round, whilst some of the cast surrounding him get to offer something a little more tongue in cheek.

Returning cast members Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Lance Reddick relax back into the spirit of things. While newcomers Peter Stormare as the brother and uncle of the first film's antagonists and Laurence Fishburne as a modern day Fagin have fun chewing up the scenery during their brief appearances. Plus Common as a vengeful bodyguard and Ruby Rose as a formidable opponent who communicates through sign language are also solid. Fans of classic vengeance cinema will also appreciate a cameo from one of its icons, the original Django, Franco Nero as the manager of the Rome equivalent of the assassin's hotel of choice, The Continental.

If there's a downside, it's that the endless parade of bad guys waiting in the wings to be shot in the head or shot in the legs then in the head by John Wick can get a bit numbing and repetitive at times. Though there's usually a bit of beautifully choreographed mayhem or a striking visual flourish that comes along to keep things interesting.

The original was that rarest of things at the time (a decent Keanu Reeves film) that seemed to come out of nowhere and the sequel has the tough job of delivering more of the same with something new minus the element of surprise. Yet deliver it definitely does. Impressive action sequences, great characters and a cute dog. Chapter 3 can't come soon enough.

By Kevin Knapman

John Wick: Chapter 2

Director: Chad Stahelski
Keanu Reeves, Common, Riccardo Scamarcio, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, Bridget Moynahan, Lance Roddick, Franco Nero, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane

UK Release: Friday 17th February 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2-"Again So Soon" Clip 

John Wick: Chapter 2-"Suited" Clip