Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
John Wick: Chapter 2

Title: John Wick: Chapter 2

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:

Gun Shop Owner: "Sorry, the law requires a five-day waiting period. We've got to run a background check."
Homer: "Five days? But I'm mad now!" 

Brief Plot Synopsis: They drew first blood.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Four-and-a-half #2 pencils out of five.

Tagline: "He's back."

Better Tagline: "Still fewer canine deaths than A Dog's Purpose."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Underworld "boogeyman" John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has barely finished wreaking vengeance on the mobsters who stole his car and committed puppycide when an old acquaintance shows up. Italian crime boss Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) holds a marker for the time he helped Wick get clear of the mob all those years ago, and now he's calling it in. For Wick, that means bumping off D'Antonio's sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini) so Santino can take her seat on the "High Table." Things rapidly go awry, and Wick is forced(?) to respond in kind.

"Critical" Analysis: 2014’s John Wick really had no right to be as good as it was. In it, a couple of ex-stuntmen directed a 50-year-old Keanu Reeves as he carved shot a bloody swath through the Russian underworld in payback for the killing of his dog. Thanks to inspired scenery chewing from the likes of Michael Nyqvist and Ian McShane (as Winston, hotelier to assassins) and some truly gripping fight choreography, the movie went on to surprising critical and box office success.

John Wick: Chapter 2 therefore comes with a lot of questions: Can it somehow top the over-the-topness of the original? Will the action feel as fresh as it did the first time around? Do any more dogs die? Your answers, in order, are: yes, mostly and no. The last answer provided solely because it sounds like the puppy bludgeoning in the first one was a deal breaker for a lot of people.

Despite the fact an indeterminate amount of time has passed since the original (enough time for Wick to get another dog, anyway), the movie opens up with him still mopping up the remnants of the Russian mob in some alternative universe New York City where police are nonexistent. This culminates in a confrontation with Viggo’s brother Abram (played to unctuous perfection by Peter Stormare). Wick kills almost a dozen guys before the opening titles even roll, which one assumes would afford him some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, D’Antonio calling his marker finds Wick once again gearing up to perforate some craniums.

Fueled by personal obligation (and the threat of imminent death), Wick travels to Rome, where he meets Winston’s Italian counterpart Julius (Franco Nero). He also visits various new shops/outfitters (Peter Serafinowicz stands out as the “Sommelier”) to get supplies before embarking on his mission: penetrating a heavily guarded fortress to take out sis. Pretty familiar beats, right?

Admittedly, watching Wick’s patented scissor kick/headshot takedown for the fifth or sixth time might make you a little anxious, as might seeing another variation on the Red Circle scene. Likewise, the reappearances of Aurelio (John Leguizamo), Charon (Lance Reddick) and even Officer Jimmy (Thomas Sadoski) could make you think you’re in for little more a dance remix of John Wick.

Good news, everyone! Director Chad Stahelski (going solo this time) and writer Derek Kolstad haven’t just Euro-d things up, they’ve also expanded the actual universe and upped the stakes for the central character. In uncovering details about the “impossible task” Wick performed to get out of the The Life, we also learn more about the shadowy cabal running the international assassins guild, which ends up having ominous ramifications for our hero.

[Aside: Just how the hell does this assassin economy work, anyway? Traditional supply and demand theory aside, it seems like having multiple high-priced killers in one location couldn’t possibly be self-sustaining. Unless murders are a substitute for blow jobs, that is]

Few and far between are the sequels better than the original (The Godfather, Part II, Wrath of Khan, Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood), but John Wick: Chapter 2 just might qualify. By creating a larger mythology and unmooring our hero from his usual support system, Stahelski and company have set the stage for a hell of a third movie (did you not know this was a trilogy? Now you do). Chapter 2 is this series' The Empire Strikes Back, if that movie had a running gag about murdering people with pencils.

Let's just hope John Wick 3 doesn't have any frigging Ewoks.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar