*NEW* JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 REVIEW *NEW*

He’s back! But bigger and better?

After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.

They certainly cranked the gun-fu up to 11 BUT “The Raid 2 of action movies”. I don’t think so.

The opening threw us right into the mix following straight on from the first film with our main man chasing after a motorcyclist to retrieve some medallion or something.

It didn’t really matter what he chasing after because it was all for a car. Remember the car? He didn’t actually get it back.

Does Peter Stormare (Prison Break) even realise he’s becoming a cliche of his own cliched character? Another hilarious generic Eastern European mob boss.

His comical rendition of his last encounter with the Matrix machismo was too much; “He killed a guy with a pencil. A f*cking pencil!”

The scrap yard sequence was ridiculous, OTT but it set up one thing. Old Keanu can still kick ass. It was like something out of a video game. Entrapped in a mosh pit of taxi cabs, waiting for a bigger and nastier villain to deliver the next punch.

The action set pieces were intense enough. BUT the only problem was that the first John Wick came out of the blue and revamped some of the old action cliches and made it into something different.

With the expectations a little higher, Chapter 2 didn’t quite meet up to them this time around. Don’t get me wrong, it still did the job and it is what it is.

A high octane punch em shoot em up but it still toyed aspects of Wick’s past that I wanted exploring. What was this impossible task?! Who decided these rules on territories and why isn’t Ian McShane (Deadwood) in this more?

Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt) played the smug Santino well. Another unwanted blast from the past. Calling on an old debt to demand one last job from the Boogeyman.

Unfortunately, this was where the pace lagged for me. We had to watch Wick’s inevitable refusal and the predictable outcome that followed. Before reluctantly accepting the task at hand.

The Rome reconnaissance was watchable enough BUT the director stretched out the build up to the point that I was screaming for a shootout.

Less of the flat cryptic dialogue, more of the bang for your buck please!

For the animal lovers, the Boogeyman has a new companion in a loveable blue staffie. Does he suffer the same fate as his furry predecessor?

Well, there’s only one way to find out BUT I’m not saying.

The gun kung fu or gung-fu was brilliantly choreographed. Just when I thought certain scenes were getting a little repetitive, there would suddenly be a new creative and ultra-violent kill that had me wincing.

Stormare wasn’t kidding about that pencil!

Common (Smokin’ Aces) played a worthy adversary. I loved the camaraderie between him and Wick; “Consider this a professional courtesy”.

However, their initial (and incredibly brutal) fist fights soon went on too long and felt more like something out of the Peter Griffin vs Giant Chicken saga. Especially when they were rolling down the stairs. My God!

Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black) had potential as a mute assassin BUT never really got going. Shame.

Laurence Fishburne was not in this enough. He stole the show in his minute cameo. I was disappointed that we couldn’t get one little Matrix quote from ol’ Morpheus.

A shady friend in Wick’s desperate time of need with an alarmingly impressive army of militant homeless men.

The fiery and frenetic closing act certainly made up for the lumbering middle act. It was everything I hoped from the get go.

Relentless, violent and bloody fun. Especially when the bounty was put on Wick’s head. Everybody in New York given the green light to take out Neo.

Mental. I don’t think it would be a spoiler to say that things have been left open for another.

And despite my grumbles, I will be looking forward to the next installment.

BUT is pace and a little more exploration into Wick’s past too much to ask? Don’t make just another generic shooter.

3/5

*NEW* BURNT REVIEW *NEW*

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Overcooked and overdone. Let’s hope Mr Cooper has a thick skin.

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is a chef who destroyed his career with drugs and diva behavior. He cleans up and returns to London, determined to redeem himself by spearheading a top restaurant that can gain three Michelin stars.

Penned by Steven Knight. Normally, I’m a big fan of the chap. Dirty Pretty Things was one of the best British films I had seen in a long time. BUT his latest offerings (Locke and Peaky Blinders) were very disappointing. Locke was an unintentionally comical showcase for Tom Hardy while Peaky Blinders (A fantastic gangster series that I had once called the best damn thing on TV) suffered from a stuttering second season.

Unfortunately (if you hadn’t gathered from that poorly punned tagline) that run has continued. Bradley Cooper does his best Gordon Ramsey impression BUT to no avail.

The first hour was actually quite watchable after a slow opening act with Cooper’s callous chef serving his “penance” by shucking out a million oysters. Yep. It really was as tedious as you think. BUT I was still intrigued to find out what Adam had done to make people detest him so much. Apparently, not a lot.

I would have preferred to see Cooper’s character burn out in the opening half than witness the dull aftermath. Some of the reasons were a little petty and boring while most of the group forgave him far too easily just because of his “reputation”. Best described using a Star Wars reference, “If he gets one more Michelin star, he’ll be like the Darth Vader of cooking”.

Cooper played it well as always. He had enough charisma to carry the piece BUT for every tense scene or engaging moment, there were a dozen cliched ones. Matthew Rhys was perfect as Adam’s old sous-chef (now bitter rival). If anything, I wished he was in it more. Their exchanges and fractious relationship was ripe for more heated confrontations. Unfortunately Knight only really scraped the surface.

And that was the problem. A great cast not used to their full potential. I couldn’t believe the amount of actors that popped up in this film. It was ridiculous. Daniel Bruhl didn’t do a bad turn as Tony. The son of a respected restaurateur trying to keep his late father’s legacy alive. The only problem was that his initial stubbornness and anger was always going to lead to the inevitable.

It was also a surprise to see Uma Thurman as a respected food critic. Shame that her character was only a passing cameo. Alicia Vikander was tragically wasted in her role. She looked stunning and had potential to cause so much more trouble for Adam. BUT it was resolved far too easily and didn’t even attempt to put out the fire burning between Cooper and Miller.

Sienna Miller and Bradley Cooper reunite once again (American Sniper). Their tense headbutting and predictable romance did enough to keep things ticking over. Cooper’s Ramsey-esque meltdown at her was brutal and nail biting. Miller was actually very good as the single mum battling to keep her catering career alive. The hokum romance did spoil things BUT their chemistry was good enough to roll out the doughy bits.

Emma Thompson was brilliant as Adam’s therapist. But heavily underused. Merely dishing out advice and keeping tabs on the recovering drug addict. A shame as the pair worked well together.

The shots of the meals and courses had my stomach rumbling. Food porn for the foodies out there. It was easygoing and pleasant enough with Adam’s tough guy demeanour finally cracking. There were even some zippy one liners; “What happened to your angel looks? Drink, cocaine and Louisiana”.

There just wasn’t enough made of the story or the cast. The second half lulled and sizzled out with a quite abrupt and corny ending. It was far too patchy, formulaic and predictable. That’s not to say it wasn’t watchable. Just disappointing.

2.5/5