By James Mazzullo
In what has felt like an eternity, the sequel action film fans have been craving has finally arrived. “John Wick: Chapter 2” sets up the return of the immortal Keanu Reeves as the assassin virtuoso John Wick commonly referred to as “the Boogeyman.”
In today’s Hollywood where original films are becoming endangered, the “John Wick” series has set itself apart. The first film created an immersive world coupled to the brim with original characters and a compelling story. The second chapter had big shoes to fill. The film does just that by exceeding every expectation and then some.
The film takes a while to find its footing, but once it does, it doesn’t miss a step. Those who see “Chapter 2” will be in awe of the beautifully choreographed action sequences. Director Chad Stahelski and screenwriter Derek Kolstad continue to enthrall the viewer in a world of stylized hyper-reality.
After successfully seeking revenge from the men who killed his dog in the first film, John is approached by Santino D’Antonio, whose devilish grin to his diabolical demeanor is reminiscent of a “James Bond” villain. This mob boss played a major role in allowing John to leave his hitman life behind.
Santino calls upon John’s IOU by sending him to Italy to carry out one final job. From this point on, John finds himself pitted against impossible odds to finally stop being a hitman.
Although Reeves is brilliant yet again as the mild-mannered, cold-blooded assassin, the medley of other characters that surround him add to the spectacle. While recurring roles from Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and John Leguizamo add to what made the first film exceptional, it is newcomers like Ruby Rose, Common and Riccardo Scamarcio that help this film surpass the original.
The movie also provides “Matrix” fans a long awaited reunion between Laurence Fishburne and Reeves.
What makes this action film stand out from the others is the choreography that stuntman-turned-director Stahelski instills. It is formulaic in approach — line up the bad guys and let the hero mow them down. But the way Stahelski frames these action sequences allows the audience to be completely mesmerized by every bone-crunching punch and gleefully gory shot to the head.
Most modern action films tend to rely on shaky cam and quick cut techniques to depict their action sequences — look at the “Taken” and “Bourne” franchises for examples. But this film allows you to see everything that is happening onscreen and gives you an appreciation of the talent and effort put into making it.
While the film’s runtime may be too long at 122 minutes, it still provides the viewer with enough high-octane action to prevent them from getting bored. At 52 years old, Reeves shows no signs of slowing down, and it is great to see him back atop the action genre.
With a large box office opening and a brilliantly suspenseful ending, a third chapter of the “John Wick” franchise is inevitable and welcomed. If you have two hours and $12 to spare, go see this movie.