*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

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RUN ALL NIGHT REVIEW

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Sleep All Night, more like.

Liam Neeson does what he does be- . . .

A shame that this talented actor is now reduced to playing the same old tired role.

Two stars for two ageing stars who do their best to put a little Hollywood grit on this overlong, by the numbers action movie.

It wasn’t all bad but it wasn’t all that great either.

I seem to be saying this a lot lately but a lot of the films I’ve seen recently are making the same piddly mistakes.

So what’s it all about? Mobster and hit man Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) has one night to figure out where his loyalties lie: with his estranged son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman), whose life is in danger, or his long time best friend, mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), who wants Mike to pay for the death of his own son.

The first 30 minutes didn’t really get things going.

It was the inevitable “build up” with all the schmaltzy back story and predictable bilge before the pow pow, ka boom!

I could feel my eyes wavering at the big hand on my watch.

However, I did like the fact that writer Brad Inglesby tried to do a slightly different spin on Neeson’s tired fighter.

A man truly scraping the bottom of the barrel. Relying on an old reputation and being best friends with the head mafioso just to get scraps.

Neeson certainly does his best to keep things watchable.

Ed Harris was everything you could expect. Menacing, brooding, perfect for the role. I just wish Inglesby had given him some better lines.

Joel Kinnaman actually didn’t do too bad a job. He actually came off a lot less wooden than his disastrous turn as Robocop.

It’s just a shame that his character is so flat.

Boyd Holbrook played the sleazy mob son quite well. I was a little gutted that his character got struck off so early on BUT then there wouldn’t have been much of a film otherwise. (Well, there still wasn’t).

GEEK SIDE NOTE: Holbrook featured alongside Neeson in A Walk Among The Tombstones

Kinnaman’s little relationship with his “boxing protegee” Eric (Devon O’Brien) seemed forced and was a little unnecessary. Desperate to add a dimension to Michael’s character.

If he didn’t have vital evidence, Eric’s character would have been useless.

Kinnaman proved he could do the action scenes and do them well. The sequence in which he evades capture from Holbrook was frantic, tense and riveting.

It was just irritating that he then had to take the back seat for Neeson.

Neeson’s Jimmy tells him not to fight or shoot. Or else he’s no better than him. Great in the sense of feeble parenting. Better late than never. BUT terrible when you’re watching an action thriller!

Martin Ruhe’s cinematography was something else. Brilliantly shot. The cityscape at night was something to behold.

The flicking back and forth across the city was a little disorienting though.

And the “metaphorical” thunderstorm (Well, literal thunderstorm) as Neeson signs his own death warrant was cheesy as hell.

Neeson and Hardy were fantastic together. The scene in which they confront each other in a cafe may have been a desperate stab at Heat but it worked for me.

I wished for a little more of that.

However, we did finally get a little more action as the gruffly gangster must stop his son from being . . . TAKEN! Yeah, I said it.

I thought the fight sequences should be commended. Unlike Taken 2 and 3, we actually get to see Neeson throw a punch and hit someone.

They may have absolutely ridiculous. No kidding. Neeson must have hit every foe with any random object he could find from metal toilet roll dispensers to fiery table legs.

You read that right. Fiery table legs. Neeson and Common (Hell on Wheels) were mano y mano with two sticks of fire.

Stupid but fast and furious.

The car chases were relentless. The first person camera work reminded me of the classic car movies. It had the same nostalgia that I felt when I watched The French Connection for the first time.

Common didn’t too bad as the relentless hitman but then again he didn’t have to say a lot.

What annoyed me was that for every positive, there were a dozen negatives.

The predictable and cliched bickering between Mike and Jimmy was terrible. Typical father/son spattering. At least they were able to bury the hatchet to dispense of some baddies. Take note, Die Hard 5!

It infuriated me that Mike still wouldn’t allow Jimmy in the same room as his family after saving his life several times in one night.

BUT have no fear, it all ends oh so predictably and cornily which killed off any momentum that the film finally seemed to build up.

At it’s best, violent, frantic, a beauty to watch. At it’s worst, hammy, overlong with that fearful question; “Is this all that Neeson is going to do now?”

Taken 4: A Fool? Not quite. Give it a go. It’s not all bad. BUT there are so many better ones out there.

2/5