John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

(Video On-Demand, August 2017) The first John Wick was a small surprise: a lean and mean action film the likes of which hadn’t been seen in a while from big studios. It made Keanu Reeves cool again, showed why stunt-minded filmmakers could thrive in an age of CGI and made nearly everyone hungry for more. John Wick 2 arrives with self-awareness of what fans want to see, and the result is obvious from the opening action sequence bringing car stunts to the table. After that, the plot kicks in high gear by delving deeper in the comic-book-inspired mythology of the series, which features a shadowy underworld of professional assassins with hard-coded rules. The plot isn’t complex, but it works and its minimalism narrative leaves enough space for maximalist execution. Once again, the details and small action beats help sell the wild fantasy of the premise, such as pinning down an opponent while reloading, in the same movie where two assassins have a silenced gunfight in the middle of a subway station or a hallucinogenic hall-of-mirror sequence. Reeves is, once again, very good as the titular assassin, trying to get out of the hired-kill life but being drawn back even deeper. There are able supporting turns by Lawrence Fishburne and Ruby Rose. John Wick: Chapter 2 concludes on a note that is either an exhilarating set-up for a third volume, or a realistic acknowledgement that there is no end to violence and no happy ending for the character. Much of the original film’s surprise is gone, but it’s been supplanted with bigger-budget execution and much more of what made the first film so effective. There will be a third movie, and it’s eagerly awaited.

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