“John Wick: Chapter 2” filled with incredible action

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Photo courtesy of Summit Entertainment

The Boogeyman is back again, and this time the hunter has become the hunted.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves), former international assassin for hire, has just finished enacting his revenge on the Russian mobsters who stole his car and killed his dog, and is ready to resume his life of retirement. An old boss, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) requests Wick’s help and provides Wick with an ultimatum he cannot refuse.

“John Wick” was a sleeper hit of 2014. A comeback for Reeves that found the actor playing into a persona we had never truly seen him tackle before. Wick is a riveting character. He’s calm and collected, but never afraid to show his rage. He’s visceral and has a sharp and quick wit. Reeves’s performance as Wick is good enough to keep people coming back, and Wick’s continuous emotional struggles make him a captivating lead and these struggles continue in “John Wick: Chapter 2.”

Admittedly though, the first “John Wick” had a lot more emotion central to its story. The death of John’s dog Daisy gave the story very hefty emotional weight. Especially considering the fact that Daisy was a final gift from Wick’s dying wife, Helen. Losing his love and then losing the one living thing in his life that reminds him of her makes for a very interesting sequence of events that, despite Wick’s consistently stoic personality, makes him a very sympathetic character.

The story in “John Wick: Chapter 2” doesn’t have this emotional weight. A villainous crime boss once again steals something from Wick but it doesn’t feel tangentially tied to the death of Daisy or Helen. The greater crime against John’s humanity is that Santino forces John back into a life he doesn’t really wish to return to.

wick still makes for a compelling lead and the story leads you to unique characters in this universe. Common plays Cassian, a bodyguard and assassin who feels compelled to kill Wick after he commits a sin upon his livelihood. It almost makes him the perfect foil to Wick. Laurence Fishburne makes an appearance as The Bowery King, chewing up scenery like he was born to ham up a sound stage. He’s funny, dramatic, and somewhat unsettling. He casts a shadow of confusion over his motivations and I’m still not sure if he is a reluctant friend or manipulative foe. Ruby Rose plays Ares, the deaf security chief of Santino, and the banter between her and Wick is immaculately well-written and very funny.

Despite having the façade of a very generic action-crime thriller, the “John Wick” films occupy a fascinating universe. The world of international assassins unfolds even more in the second chapter to very convincing effects. The real kicker of “John Wick: Chapter 2” is the action. Chad Stahelski, the film’s director, is a veteran stunt choreographer with an eye for fighting and action that rivals everyone else in the business. Stahelski took action scene concepts that no director would dare touch due to their complexity and executes them (no pun intended) with a flourish all his own. The breakneck pace of the film only allows short moments of respite before throwing you right back into incredible moments of hand to hand combat and precise shooting that makes for fantastic and visceral action scenes.

“John Wick: Chapter 2” boils down to a film with amazing action that rivals blockbusters with triple its budget. It entertains with a well-written, often funny, story that expands on the intriguing universe established in the first film. All in all, “John Wick 2” is a fantastic time at the theater and shows that Keanu has still got what it takes.