I’ll say this for “John Wick: Chapter 2”: It sure does deliver the bang for the moviegoer’s bucks.
Lots and lots and lots of bangs, in fact.
The follow-up to 2014’s action hit “John Wick” again features Keanu Reeves in the title role, playing a man of few words and many bullets.
Ever so many bullets.
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The character is a super assassin with a tender side, that side manifesting itself in the original and in the sequel with early gauzy flashbacks to his happy married life with a lovely smiling wife. The wife was deceased before the first picture started owing to a fatal disease, and her memory was desecrated by evildoers who killed the adorable puppy that was her final gift to her hubby. Tenderness thus defiled fueled the vengeful killing sprees that are the wildly hammering heart of both movies.
“Chapter 2” is a collection of shootouts past counting staged in highly stylized surroundings: a dark catacomb illuminated by blinding flashlight beams and muzzle flashes, a literal hall of mirrors lit by kaleidoscoping colors, an all-white subway station decorated with spatters of bright red blood shed by innumerable slain gunmen.
Reeves’ Wick is indestructible but far from invulnerable. Shot in the gut, stabbed in the thigh, run down by three cars on three separate occasions, he gets up, dusts off, reloads, and staggering a bit, metes out even more mayhem.
It’s all kind of funny, actually, and deliberately so. Director Chad Stahelski, a former stunt man, stages a flailing fight down a seemingly endless flight of stairs that is like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon.
Wick operates in a parallel universe where assassins are governed by a code of conduct that makes it nearly impossible to retire from the life, as Wick discovers to his angry dismay. It’s a pretty cool universe, though, with special luxury hotels that cater to a killer clientele and tailor shops that specialize in bulletproof designer suits and gun stores where high-end weaponry is described in the terms used to sell fine wines.
The first picture was lightly tethered to something resembling reality, but this new one floats free in a cloud cuckooland where Keanu-as-killer, with the greatest of ease, barges into highly guarded dens of bad guys and puts them all in a world of fatal hurt.
John Wick: Chapter 2
☆☆ 1/2 out of 5
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio.
Director: Chad Stahelski.
Running time: 2:02.
Rated: R, for strong violence throughout, some language, and brief nudity.