Combustible Celluloid
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With: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, Common
Written by: Derek Kolstad
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence throughout, some language and brief nudity
Running Time: 122
Date: 02/10/2017

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Second 'Wick' Flick Clicks

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The new sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 lacks the happy surprise of the first John Wick (2014), but nonetheless maintains a kind of existential action that makes it more interesting than nearly anything else around.

Both films are directed by former stuntman Chad Stahelski. Normally when stuntmen direct, they prepare lots of action, but have no idea how to photograph it in motion.

Yet Stahelski seems not only to have a natural eye for rhythm and movement, but also a sense for backgrounds, harmony and conflict, loud and quiet.

The many long, exhausting fight scenes in John Wick: Chapter 2 are captured in sustained takes and vivid backgrounds unique to the personality of each scene. One shootout takes place in ancient tunnels, and another in room full of mirrors.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a legendarily unstoppable black-suited hitman who speaks only when absolutely necessary. He kills in an almost endless, fluid, brutal ballet of body flips and changing clips.

The first film was a simple revenge story, with Wick, understandably, going after the man that killed his dog.

Now Wick wishes to retire, but he receives a visit from Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio).

Santino holds a "marker," a promise owed to him by Wick, and he wants to use it to assassinate his sister, who occupies a seat with a powerful secret organization. Wick refuses, and Santino blows up Wick's house.

Wick has no choice. He must carry out the marker, and then he will kill Santino. Needless to say this also requires the deaths of hundreds of bodyguards and hired thugs, and Wick dispatches them all with razor focus. The movie has no braggadocio, no fat or filler.

One of its best gimmicks is the idea of the "Continental," a hotel that all career killers and criminals can check into for help or to relax. No business of any kind may be conducted inside. During a fight, Wick and a rival crash through the hotel window, and must stop. They have drinks at the bar.

Astonishingly, the movie doesn't seem influenced by the Fast & Furious movies or any other explosion-heavy fluff going on today. Rather, it recalls masters like Jean-Pierre Melville and Sergio Leone, filmmakers who staged action as part of the specific fabric of a movie, not just as throwaway inserts.

Perhaps more than anything else, what sets the John Wick movies apart is the sense that violence isn't without a price. Wick finishes his fight bleeding, injured, and worn out; he has survived, but without really having accomplished anything. There is no closure. Violence has begat more violence.

Summit's Blu-ray release is, overall, excellent. It includes a Blu-ray, a DVD, and a digital copy. The images and sound is pretty much flawless. Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski contribute a commentary track (with Reeves prompting his friend with questions and comments). Other extras include deleted scenes, about ten little featurettes running around 5-10 minutes, plus a handful of trailers, and a funny "fake" trailer.

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