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John Wick 2
Credit: Niko Tavernise

John Wick: Chapter 2

The biggest compliment I can think to pay John Wick: Chapter 2 is that I lost track of the body count within the first 15 minutes. If that sounds like high praise to you, too, then you will absolutely dig Keanu Reeves’ gratuitously crunchy ode to choreographed ultraviolence via the bullet, the bare knuckle, and the everyday No. 2 pencil.

In the unexpectedly awesome 2014 franchise starter, Reeves played a legendary hitman who wiped out untold Russian goons because one of them made the mistake of killing his dog. This time around, Wick is pulled out of retirement to honor a debt to a backstabbing Italian dandy (Riccardo Scamarcio) who wants to take control of an underground guild of assassins. The idea of a secret world of professional killers adhering to a set of civilized conventions may sound absurd, but it’s what makes the Wickverse more intriguing and far richer than the usual numbskull orgy of cinematic nihilism.

Reeves is like a haunted (and largely speechless) ronin living by the 21st-century code of the samurai. If that all sounds too highfalutin by half, well, there’s also a bunch of tire-squealing car chases, countless point-blank kills, and scenic bone-crunching brawls in Rome’s ancient catacombs. And there’s a laundry list of interesting character actors who keep dropping by to spice up the bloodbath, like Laurence Fishburne, Common, and Ian McShane, who purrs bespoke menace as the grandmaster of the whole masonic order. But it’s Reeves, with his natty suits and icy stare, who grabs you by the throat — figuratively and literally. Killing is John Wick’s business…and business is good. B+

John Wick: Chapter 2
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