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|John Wick: Chapter 2
dir Chad Stahelski
scr Derek Kolstad
prd Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee
with Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo, Franco Nero, Peter Stormare, Claudia Gerini, Peter Serafinowicz
release US 10.Feb.17, UK 17.Feb.17
17/US Summit 2h02
Friends and enemies: Reeves and Common
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Picking up right where the first film left off, this is another full-on violent action romp with brittly humorous undertones and a remarkably strong sense of story and character. Director Chad Stahelski again gets the audience gasping and laughing nervously at the barrage of brutal fight scenes and outrageous chases, while at the same time letting us feel an emotional connection.
After wiping out a New York mob, John (Reeves) is hoping to finally be left alone. But mafioso Santino (Scamarcio) calls in a blood oath. This sends John on an assignment to Rome, and what he's required to do puts him in the crosshairs of his former colleague Cassian (Common), mute security goon Ares (Rose) and armies of henchmen. Back in New York, John seeks help from an underground guru (Fishburne) and tries not to break the criminal society rules enforced by the manager (MacShane). But events are pushing him close to the edge.
Because it's now working within an established mythology, this sequel has a less frantic pace, interspersing the insane action mayhem with quietly intense moments that build character detail. It's an effective approach that pulls the audience in on both levels. Fights and chases are cleverly choreographed to look desperate, raw and brutal, packed with shocking touches that are shot and played with inventive skill. Aside from finally seeing John's pencil trick, the most cringe-inducing buts are collisions between people and cars, which happen rather frequently in this movie.
Reeves again glides through the chaos with remarkable elegance. He doesn't maintain his sharply tailored look for long in any scenario, beaten and bloodied beyond recognition, but his cool, focussed approach continually catches us aback as he dismisses hordes of thugs in a variety of settings, saving some particularly rough hand-to-hand fight work for the equally composed Common. Each character has a weary, worn-out charm, as if they're tired of this killer subculture. But they carry on regardless.
Where the first film let this mythical world build itself, this one adds more explanation, constructing an over-arching premise that is clearly designed to continue into a third chapter. This adds a level of complexity to the film by providing more context for the inter-relationships. But it also leaves things a little murkier. This is less about John's desire to simply straighten out a specific wrong than it is about his war on the whole system. And perhaps in today's political climate, that's just what we need.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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