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Review: Hyperviolent sequel John Wick 2 high on body count, low on originality

09:23 16 February 2017

Keanu Reeves is still at the centre, enforcing the tone of deadpan absurdism, in John Wick 2 Picture: Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros.

Keanu Reeves is still at the centre, enforcing the tone of deadpan absurdism, in John Wick 2 Picture: Niko Tavernise/Warner Bros.

Archant

The reunion of Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne almost two decades on from The Matrix is about the only surprise in bone-crunching follow-up.

John Wick 2

***

John Wick deux has everything John Wick had, except the surprise. And repetition is definitely an issue here – how many bones can be broken or brains splattered before it becomes a bit of a chore?

The first film took the laziest of premises – the brilliant hitman who ‘They’ won’t let retire – and made something that was stylish, ferocious and self deprecatingly funny.

The follow up has a fairly sure sense of how to do the same thing again with enough tweaks to keep it interesting.

The body count would shame Rambo and the bone crushing intensity, or rather the deafening sound of it, would be sickening but for the rules of film’s universe meaning that no women, children of bystanders get hurt: everybody involved is a consenting hoodlum.

Stuntman turned director Chad Stahelski is no kind of action master yet, but he is picking things up fast, and some of the sets and location are sumptuously shot.

A shoot-out in a hall of mirrors is distinctly old hat (think the Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun) but though there isn’t anything truly inventive here, the action sequences have a kind of grace with Keanu as a gun toting Jackson Pollock, spray painting pristine surfaces with the bloody squibs of the extras.

Keanu is its still centre, enforcing the tone of deadpan absurdism by never, ever dropping his guard or admitting that he is in on the joke.

He sports a beard and looks like some kind of London hipster craft assassin. He is perhaps a bit podgy to be playing a master killer (a waistcoat is always a giveaway) but he has one asset that makes him convincing as an unstoppable killing machine.

At one point he calls in a favour from The Bowery King (Laurence Fishbourne), who presides over a vast network of homeless spies on the city streets.

But even when he is wearing all over body armour he’s still too pretty for anyone to bring themselves to shoot him in the face.

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