John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Genre: Action Running Time: 2 hrs. 2 min.

Release Date: February 10th, 2017 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Chad Stahelski Actors: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynahan, Franco Nero, Peter Stormare

 


 

A

fter killing the criminal kingpin who stole his car and murdered his puppy, elite mechanic John Wick (Keanu Reeves) once again attempts to enjoy his retirement. But it’s not long before the uncommonly skilled hitman is dragged back into the lifestyle he’d fought so hard to leave, as spiteful Italian mobster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls on him to honor a debt. Forced to carry out a high-profile assassination, Wick quickly faces numerous repercussions, including betrayal by his employer and a hefty bounty on his head. As an unending stream of mercenaries pile up to claim the reward, the laconic killer must wade through an ocean of bullets to reach his quarry and exact revenge.

For a change, the cold open doesn’t involve any events shown out of chronological order. Wick is back to his old trade, tracking down enemies and dispatching them without the slightest hint of emotion. And, for a minute, it appears as if this follow-up would capitalize, almost unthinkably, on the very simple premise that occupied the original. He’s still upset over his dog and his ’69 Mustang. “It’s not just a car. It’s John Wick’s car.” But, sadly, “John Wick: Chapter 2” isn’t brave enough to copy its predecessor that closely. Instead, it has to introduce a few new story elements.

It’s strange to think that more of a storyline actually works against the charm of the 2014 Keanu Reeves vehicle. Here, Wick’s uncannily singular focus changes shape, so that he can toil for the first half of the film to follow the rules, only to struggle during the last half to break them. A randomly invented villain from the past has a formerly unrevealed link that conveniently pulls John back into his life of crime for the sake of repeating many of the violent moments from before. It’s purposeful in its aim of giving audiences more of what they want, but it’s inarguably repetitious in its execution; hordes of nameless thugs trot out to be gunned down, cars and motorcycles crumple into one another like tinfoil, necks find partners in garrotes, and bullets gracefully collide with skulls in splashes of red.

The violence has become a shade more graphic, though it’s also gained a self-awareness that lends to superior humor. The choreography is occasionally cleaner, while the CG usage grows more seamless. But the villains are just as bland as before; perhaps even inappropriately comical. Heroes tend to be only as effective as their opponents are interesting. Additionally, if ever there was a pointless miscalculation in casting, it’s having Laurence Fishburne appear again with his “The Matrix” costar, upsettingly taking away – even for a minute – from the illusion that Reeves is now Wick and not Neo.

In this world of high-class assassins, there’s a fine line between goofy traditions and awe-inspiring machismo (a gun-shopping sequence seems to resemble a closet-based fashion show from an ‘80s chick flick). Plus, there’s intermittent failure to present something fresh for viewers. A few shootouts carry on too long as they go into video-game mode, trading out weapons, shifting viewpoints, reloading, and finding gunmen jolting into frame from behind obstacles for some last-second headshots. Wrestling down a lengthy staircase turns downright hilarious, while a subway-violinist-cum-hitwoman is just silly. Skirmishes toward the finale get better, with greater intensity and amusing editing (particularly with a close-quarters battle on a subway car and in a mirror-filled New Modern NYC museum exhibit [called Reflections of the Soul] that nods to “The Man with the Golden Gun”), but “John Wick: Chapter 2” has difficulty remaining consistently different. At some points, it could pass for a remake rather than a sequel. And, sadly, with its insistence on protracting the series, the conclusion digs itself into a wholly needless hole, solely to ensure that Wick will return for another adventure – which screams of money-grubbing desperation instead of the desire to merely entertain.

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10