John Wick: Chapter 2 Review
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In 2014, Keanu Reeves had a surprise hit with the ultra-violent, over-the-top crime thriller John Wick—a film so unexpectedly popular that fans have been eagerly awaiting the sequel ever since. And now, in John Wick: Chapter 2, he’s back with another dog and another deadly mission.

The action-packed sequel once again stars Reeves as the title character, a notorious hitman with a heart of gold, who gave up the criminal world for love, only to return years later as a grieving widower who’s out for revenge. Once he gets it, he plans to resume his retirement, but an old agreement with Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) forces him back into the business one more time. And after he reluctantly carries out the assassination of an old friend, he finds that he’s D’Antonio’s next target, hunted by every ruthless assassin in New York.

During a generally dreary time of the year for new movies, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a gleefully excessive, enjoyably absurd adventure. Everything here is extreme—from the action sequences to the body count to the characters. John once again races through crowds of people, dispatching anyone in his way with one head shot after another (or, if no traditional weapon is available, anything will do—like a pencil). It’s all absolutely ridiculous—and, fortunately, everyone here is in on the joke. The cast and crew know exactly how over-the-top it is, and they play it accordingly.

Reeves, meanwhile, is once again fittingly wooden. He seems to struggle with each word. Yet, in his character’s line of work—and considering his history—that feels perfectly acceptable. Assassins don’t need to be particularly eloquent—especially not one who’s known as “The Boogeyman.” So it’s easy to allow the character his social awkwardness—and, really, that’s part of his charm. He’s part Zen master, part strong, silent tough guy. And he inhabits an imaginative world where criminals are all like competitive colleagues who adhere to strict rules and regulations and who behave civilly toward one another—until they’re forced to do otherwise.

It’s all pretty creative stuff: the organizations and agreements, the weapons and tailor-made body armor, the assassins who gun each other down in the streets before taking a break to enjoy a cocktail together on neutral ground. Unfortunately, though, it runs longer than necessary—and while it’s an entertainingly extreme thriller, the novelty of it all does wear off before the story comes to its end.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is definitely as wild and crazy and ultra-violent as the original. Of course, that means that it’s lacking the element of surprise that was part of the fun the first time around—but it’s still an outrageously entertaining way to battle the winter blues.

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