‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ loses ground, but surges ahead on the home stretch

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John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Directed by Chad Stahelski

The Boogeyman is back and bloodier than ever. But brutality alone can’t save “John Wick: Chapter 2” from some of its shortcomings. The fresh-out-of-retirement hitman (Keanu Reeves) picks up shortly after he left off, after avenging his wife, his puppy, and his muscle car by killing a family of Russian mobsters and seemingly everyone they ever knew. Now, before retiring for good, Wick has one more obligation, one last hit—but this one will anger a lot of people and effectively bring him back out of retirement more permanently than he hoped.

Keanu Reeves is clearly starting to sink into his role, in his first movie franchise since “The Matrix.” He’s invested in his character, and we reap the benefits. Playing a brooding colleague, Common is absolutely no good. He never has been, if we’re being honest with ourselves, especially in these action movies where he plays the strong, silent type. It’s bogus. Sure, he handles fight choreography well, and a fist fight between him and Wick proves to be pretty badass, but all things considered I would have preferred the casting director go in almost any other direction.

2014’s “John Wick” was a success because of its blindsiding impact. The beautiful simplicity of the story, about a man who has nothing left but the hunt for vengeance, is what made the action film a success. They couldn’t have hoped to create something as fresh or surprising the second time around, and they don’t. “Chapter 2” is less of a page-turner, more of a convoluted mess. “Chapter 2” substitutes snaking twists for honest good vs. evil action. But when it comes to gratuitous violence, this blood-spattered sequel certainly has you covered. The original’s $20 million dollar budget was enough to give us what we needed, but I suspect they got a pay raise this time around. Instead of wasting it on unneeded special effects, however, “Chapter 2” just gives us a few more exciting stunt scenes. But frankly, on the other hand, Wick didn’t need all that extra stuff. Fist fights and precision sharpshooting served him well before, and when he’s back at it this time around “Chapter 2” is at its best. There’s hope for “Chapter 3,” but in the meantime we’re left with something stuck between the quality of any average action movie and its thrilling 2014 predecessor.

7/10

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