Ian McShane fans are rejoicing at the announcement of his return to the big screen in a project worthy of his talents. The actor will reprise his role as Winston, owner of the safe-haven hotel for assassins The Continental, in John Wick 2. McShane has found his niche with gritty TV roles in Deadwood and Ray Donovan, but has struggled to find film roles with the same depth.
Common, whose acting career has been heating up with roles in Suicide Squad and Selma, has also signed on for the sequel in a role that sets him up as the lead villain. How that plays out remains to be seen as, according to THR, he’ll play the head of security for a female crime lord, which would seem to make her the real villain.
As a retired assassin, Wick’s motivations are different than most contract killers however, so this film could set up the same kind of personal vendetta that saw Wick hunting snarky playboy Iosef Tarasov, played by Game of Thrones’ Alfie Allen in the first film. (If you ever want a character that deserves to be dispatched, cast Allen, who oozes despicableness in the best way.) But we’re hoping the writers find a fresh motivation for Wick to bust on the bad guys, which seems to be their plan. When the sequel was announced, co-director Chad Stahelski told Movies.com:
“We have ideas for days and without blinking twice we know we can outdo the action from the original. It’s the matter of story and how much you like the character. That’s always the most important. If there’s great action but you have a character that no one likes and doesn’t have charisma you’re not going to watch it. Look at any great action star, whether it’s Harrison Ford or Liam Neeson or Robert Downey Jr., pick a name, you love the guy first. Good action, bad action, you just love them in action. So we want to make sure we have a story and a character that everybody loves and then we’ll dress it with action that we promise will be awesome.”
Co-director David Leitch added, “You gotta go on a journey with the guy and have to like the guy.”
John Wick was notable for the odd combination of a simple story mixed with complex stunts, highly-choreographed action that moved at a watchable speed, and a well-developed mythology. The plot – villain kills Wick’s beloved dog and steals his treasured car, Wick seeks revenge – was set in a fully-realized world, familiar to our own but different in very important shades. One reviewer compared it to Eyes Wide Shut; set in a New York City devoid of normal humanity, where action takes place in balletic motion on empty streets. It was a perfect vehicle for Keanu Reeves to step back into the action roles he excels at.
The success of the first movie, which earned $78 million against a budget of $20 million, was a nice payoff for a team of filmmakers working in relatively new roles. Writer Derek Kolstad had previously scripted action films set in the criminal underworld which starred names like Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, and Cuba Gooding Jr. But neither of those saw wide release in the U.S., or earned even a fraction of their budget.
But the John Wick script made Hollywood’s Black List of the best unproduced scripts in 2012 and was purchased by Thunder Road Pictures. Once Keanu Reeves signed on the film became a collaborative effort as he reworked the script with Kolstad in an effort to flesh out minor characters, and brought on his former Matrix stunt masters Stahelski and Leitch to direct.
The co-directors had both enjoyed long and successful careers as stunt coordinators on big-budget features like 300, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and The Bourne franchise. They told ScreenRant that their experience with good action directors made their work on Wick easier:
No word yet on whether McShane or other minor characters will see larger roles this go-around, but since it sounds like the creators are aware of the power of their ensemble cast I wouldn’t be surprised.
We’ll bring you a release date and more production details as soon as we hear.