“John Wick: Chapter 2”

Keanu Reeves needs to keep making action movies because his stunt work in “John Wick: Chapter 2” is impeccable. He tops his work in the film’s predecessor.

Picking up where the first one ended, Wick reclaims his car and settles back into retirement with an adorable unnamed pit bull. When crime boss Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) asks Wick to pull off an impossible job, Wick is forced into it due to a blood oath. Wick soon finds himself double crossed and shooting his way out of both Rome and New York, as he finds a contract put on him.

“John Wick: Chapter 2” starts with a bang, combining a car chase with mixed martial arts in innovative fashion. It’s one of several versatile and jaw-dropping action sequences. While “Chapter 1” was mostly shooting, “Chapter 2” features knife fights, stealth kills, foot chases, and one epic gunfight in the Roman Catacombs where Reeves shows off impressive weapons training.

The action in “Chapter 2” ranges from brutal and intense (there’s a pencil kill that tops “The Dark Knight”) to plain ridiculous (look out for a never-ending stair scene). It’s even in both categories and Reeves once again delivers a restrained performance.

Director Chad Stahelski further expands the world building by diving deeper into the Continental’s rules and benefits, featuring some darkly funny moments. We even learn how large the assassin guild is since nearly everyone in “Chapter 2” is an assassin.

While “Chapter 2” improves in its world building and action sequences, it sadly declines in writing and gritty tone. Wick is fighting for survival, which isn’t as edgy or compelling as him seeking revenge. Santino isn’t nearly smug or despicable like the Tarasovs from “Chapter 1,” either.

The final act comes off forced and anti-climactic, but this is forgivable due to the film’s relentless pace and world building. Now when is “Chapter 3” coming out again?

Grade: B+

The Classics – “John Wick”

So, I’m going to review more classics from various directors and franchises, leading to their successors. On that note, let’s about 2014’s sleeper hit “John Wick.”

HEAVY SPOILER WARNING! IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED “JOHN WICK,” DON’T READ THIS REVIEW.

Keanu Reeves plays the recently widowed John Wick. After losing his wife to cancer, he receives an adorable puppy as a posthumous gift from her. The warm times between Wick and his puppy are cut short when a group of young thugs led by Yusef (Alfie Allen) break into Wick’s house, kill the puppy, and steal his car.

The thugs learn the hard way that they screwed with the wrong guy since Wick is a retired hitman nicknamed The Boogeyman. The body count rises when Yusef’s father and Wick’s former boss, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist) gets involved.

The theatrical trailer made “John Wick” look like a generic revenge movie. I’m guilty as charged for being snobby because this is one of the best action films of the 2010’s.

“John Wick” takes an unconventional approach to the action genre by combining Neo-Noir narrative with both Spaghetti Western and Hong Kong action aesthetics, making it a refreshing departure from “Taken” rip-offs. This is a movie where assassins are in a league with their own hotel and currency. While we don’t have all the answers to the questions about this world, “John Wick: Chapter 2” might have these answers.

There’s a darkly funny mythology behind Wick. Bouncers are afraid of him, a chop shop owner (John Leguizamo) and Viggo both slap Yusef for stealing his car, and a particular cleaner (David Patrick Kelly) is honored to cover up Wick’s killings. He’s clearly a forced to be reckoned with.

David Leitch and Chad Stahelski made their directorial debut with “John Wick,” having a background as stuntmen for Hollywood action movies. The duo brilliantly choreographs the film’s action sequences, and focus on the actors rather than the camera work. There isn’t a single sloppy shot to disguise the actor’s poor athleticism. Instead, all shots are smooth and clear, as we watch impressive stunt-work.

The best action sequence involves Wick pursuing Yusef through a night club and shooting several bad guys with great innovation. There’s some additional morbid humor when Wick uses one man’s beard as a grip and takes a moment to reload before executing another baddie. Backed by slick visuals and a kinetic soundtrack, this shootout is the highlight.

Reeves has a divided reception; audiences and critics have both praised and criticized him for his laidback acting style. His style suits him well in the titular role. Reeves has little dialogue, but his facial expressions and a particularly angry monologue show that Reeves is best as an action star.

If you want a good action movie that focuses on world building and honors actors’ stunt work, “John Wick” is one to watch. Let’s just hope “John Wick: Chapter 2” maintains the same positive attributes.

Grade: A-