Necessary spoiler: The dog doesn’t die this time.
The 400-Word Review: John Wick Chapter Two
By Sean Collier
February 15, 2017
The original John Wick was a controversial flick among the vocal segment of the movie-going public which considers dog calamity to be the most troubling of all on-screen sins (a viewpoint with which I don’t exactly disagree). On the one hand, John Wick’s particularly adorable puppy does perish in the film. On the other hand, Wick responds to the offense by murdering not only the man who committed the act of canicide, but also nearly every person the villain had ever met.
Which, admittedly, is an appropriate response.
So let’s be clear: Wick’s new dog, picked up at the end of the first film, makes it through John Wick: Chapter 2 just fine. Unlike a hundred or more bad guys.
After enacting brutal and exceptionally well-photographed revenge in the 2014 film, Wick (Keanu Reeves) is hoping to once again re-exit the criminal underworld; he had only gotten back into the game for some quick vengeance. A problem arrives on his doorstep, however, in the form of Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio), a mid-level Italian crime boss; Wick owes him a favor, and while Santino wasn’t going to cash in as long as Wick stayed retired, his glorious killing spree changed things.
Wick is loudly coerced into agreement; there’s an inevitable twist and some globetrotting. But the point, really, is the action. John Wick wasn’t much of a film except for its fight scenes, which were elegantly choreographed and — thank you, thank you, thank you — smartly shot explosions of gunplay and fisticuffs. Besides that, there was very little to the original; accordingly, the sequel increases what worked (punching, shooting) while cutting down on what didn’t (Reeves talking).
The sequel, directed by Chad Stahelski — who co-directed the original and flies solo here, after the departure of David Leitch — also fleshes out the somewhat laughably deep criminal syndicate that seems to permeate the entire world. The added emphasis on the economy and bylaws of this alternate society (literally everything seems to cost one ornate gold coin) adds to the theory that these films are knowing parodies of their genre a la Scream.
I’m not quite buying it; I’m of the opinion that both flicks are garden-variety actioners in nice suits. The sequel is better than the first, though, and if you just want some fight scenes, there aren’t many better places to look.
My Rating: 6/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark