Review - John Wick: Chapter 2

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), R, 122 minutes - I may have been overly excited for this film due to finally having seen the first John Wick just last weekend, but John Wick: Chapter 2 definitely didn't disappoint.

There's a bit more going on in this second installment, but it works well, fleshing out more details of the underground hitman network introduced in the first film.  Director Chad Stahelski wastes little time jumping into the action, kicking the film off with John (Keanu Reeves) charging into a Russian chop shop run by Abram Tarasov (Peter Stormare) - brother of Viggo, uncle of Iosef from the first film - in search of his stolen 1969 Mustang.  After calling a truce with the Russian and retrieving his car (albeit virtually totaled), John returns home to what he thinks will be the quiet life of retirement.  Shortly thereafter, he is visited by Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who is calling in a marker on John (a blood-sworn debt).  We learn that John owes the debt because D'Antonio was instrumental in John's retirement to settle down with his wife Helen (now deceased).  The cashing in of the marker holds John over an impossible barrel.  If he honors it, it means that the quiet, retired life he is trying to lead is over, and if he denies the request, he insures that he will be hunted for the rest of his life.  After initially rejecting the request he decides to honor the marker, thinking that if he repays the debt, he'll be free and clear to live his life however he wants.  I think we all know that in stories like this, it is never that simple.

The film takes John's prepping for the job to illustrate more details of the hitman underworld: tailors that create suits lined with body armor, a weaponeer at the Continental known as The Sommelier (Peter Serafinowicz), international branches of the Continental (specifically Rome), and an organization known as the High Table (a place in which is the cause behind D'Antonio calling in the marker).  Just as in the first film, there is an abundance of familiar faces and badassery.  This time around we see John Leguizamo (Aurelio), Ian McShane (Winston), and Lance Reddick (Charon) reprising their roles, along with Ruby Rose (Ares), Common (Cassian), and even Laurence Fishburne (Bowery King) in what I believe to be his first on screen appearance with Keanu Reeves since The Matrix trilogy.  The Bowery King even has a line about having not worked with John in years, a comment that has a very meta feel to it considering those involved in the conversation.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a very enjoyable follow up.  It lives up to, and possibly even exceeds expectations with its world building and continued top-notch action sequences (oh yeah, there's also no animal violence this time around).  It provides satisfying closure to this chapter, while at the same time leaving John in a very intriguing predicament, virtually guaranteeing that there will be a third installment.  If and when that time comes, I'll be there on opening weekend for sure.

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