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John Wick: Chapter 2
★☆☆☆☆
First run Theater cinema

Two flagrantly entertaining shoot-'em-up/punch-'em-up pictures arrived in multiplexes during the last five years gave me hope for the action-adventure genre in the dismal CGI age when most films of this type are monotonous collections of badly staged, stupidly violent, flash-cut live action cartoons with nothing to say but dumb self-referential jokes.  Jack Reacher (2012), Christopher McQuarrie’s inventive adaptation of the first in Lee Child’s series of pulp novels, starred Tom Cruise as a former Army MP with training, skills, and wits so sharp they made him an beatable, and unpredictable, criminal investigator.  John Wick (2014), an original movie by screenwriter Derek Kolstad and stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski, starred Keanu Reeves as a highfalutin ex-hitman who reenters an extensive subculture of assassins and wealthy criminals that play by agreed-upon rules and hang out in private hotels and nightclubs where everyone knows each other by name, face, and reputation.  Both of these two bright spots in an otherwise dark sea of interchangeable corporate action cinema were named after their main characters, indicating that sequels were to be expected.  Both follow-ups arrived within a few months of each other.  Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016), under the guidance of writer/director Edward Zwick (Glory, Legends of the Fall, Blood Diamond), was a disappointingly routine affair. Though watchable, it possessed none of the inventiveness or the fun of the first picture.  John Wick: Chapter 2, again by director Stahelski and writer Kolstad, tries to double-down on what made their début so impressive and fresh. But the attempt to heighten the fun results in such a vacuous, unpleasant, pernicious mess it could quite possibly be the single most disappointing sequel of the last twenty-five years.

Whereas the first “chapter” created an absurd but compelling fantasy of a highbrow criminal underworld operating all around us, this next installment depicts practically every citizen on screen as a member of this super secret club. The filmmakers stage their violent set pieces in glorious international locations, but the more they dress up the surroundings the more woefully lacking the storyline becomes. This script quadruples down on the worst action movie clichés imaginable, which are injected into long LONG stretches of empty yet endless exchanges of dialogue. An impressive all-star cast does its best to make the generic material seem new and clever, but they all fail. And no matter how elegant the settings and how well staged the fight scenes may be, with each successive exchange of gratuitous violence—in which punches and gunshots sometimes yield graphic, quasi-dramatic deaths and sometimes seem to yield no more pain than a mosquito bite—we become less and less engaged, and Reeves and all his fellow assassins just seem comically inept. Our willingness to suspend disbelief gets challenged, then eroded, then utterly obliterated —and, unlike John Wick, once that’s gone it never comes back.

Twitter Capsule:
Possibly the most disappointing sequel of the last twenty-five years. More is less!  

Directed by Chad Stahelski
Produced by Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee

Written by Derek Kolstad
Based on characters created by Derek Kolstad

With: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan, Thomas Sadoski, David Patrick Kelly, Peter Stormare, Peter Serafinowicz, Claudia Gerini, and Franco Nero

Cinematography: Dan Laustsen
Editing: Evan Schiff
Music: Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard

Runtime: 122 min
Release Date: 10 February 2017
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
Color