John Wick: Chapter Two (2017)
Every once in a great while we get a movie that so precisely knows what it is; that so exactly gets what it’s about it becomes something greater than it ever had any right to be. “John Wick” is that movie to a degree, but its sequel, “John Wick: Chapter Two,” is that movie to a degree I didn’t think possible.
It’s possible. The sequel widens the assassin-filled underworld introduced in the 2014 cult hit while never bloating it. If there’s one thing director Chad Stahelski hates, it’s fat. There’s none to be found in “Chapter Two” as Wick, again played perfectly by Keanu Reeves, is dragged right back into the criminal underground he’ll never escape much to the glee of the packed theater I watched the film in.
Reeves punches assassins, shoots bodyguards and dashes around the catacombs in a hand-tailored suit all with the deliberate mayhem of Jason Voorhees. They don’t call him the bogeyman for nothing. It’s easy to root for Wick because everyone else in the film is, too. Even his enemies can’t help but pay their respects to the Michael Myers-esque monster who destroys everything he touches.
That's a great strength of both films in the burgeoning cult franchise: casting. Yes, Reeves is perfect as the slickly-dressed, emotionless killing machine; but the film shines through its character actors. The Russian mob boss in the opening sequence sweats dread and the Italian tailor exudes excitement over making a suit for the John Wick. These finds are the mark of an incredible casting director and make a very good movie into a spectacular one.
And those are the actors whose names you’ll never know; go beyond that and you’ll find Ian McShane chewing scenery as the head of the assassin hotel chain. Dig a little deeper to see Laurence Fishburne leading a gang of “homeless” informants or check out Ruby Rose as a sign language performing bodyguard. Hell, Common shows up as a bodyguard and John Leguizamo appears as Wick’s … tow truck driver? This film’s cast is spectacular.
And even with all of that, the film feels small. Despite filming in Rome and New York; despite getting solid actors with names you know and despite action sequences that put the Bourne films to shame, “Wick” never forgets what it is. It stays true to its roots as a tight, thrilling and sexy action flick that never lets you catch its breath. In a world where so many sequels let their bigger budgets get the best of them, Wick’s restraint, at least in this one area, is refreshing.
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