First, the good news: The dog doesn't die in John Wick: Chapter 2. This will come as a relief to some of us who adored the original, an action masterpiece about a retired hitman taking unholy revenge on the Russian scumbags who killed his pup and stole his car. The unbearable death of John Wick's pooch -- and yes, I know I'm being hypocritical about this, since the film also featured scads of humans being killed -- was one reason why I could never recommend the first film to certain people in my life. Animal lovers can see this new one.
Now, the bad news: The dog doesn't die in John Wick: Chapter 2. The thirst for bloody vengeance that fueled the original is less powerful this time. We knew very little about John Wick in the first film, but he became real through his loss and his ensuing righteous bloodlust. Here, we care about him simply because we saw the first movie.
Without that crucial emotional element, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a somewhat more distanced affair. But it's still a dizzying symphony of carnage. Our hero (again played with stoic angst by Keanu Reeves) finds himself a pawn in the middle of a Mafia family rivalry. Everybody wants to kill John Wick, and they all try. The most striking sequence involves intercutting between three separate attempts on Wick's life, each with its own rhythm and elaborate ass-kicking. By removing the least interesting element from these scene -- the question of whether John Wick will survive, because duh -- director Chad Stahelski (who co-directed the original with David Leitch) turns them into pure studies in motion.