Fri | Sep 22, 2017

John Wick's second chapter bloody satisfying as first

Published:Monday | February 20, 2017 | 2:00 AMDamian Levy
Keanu Reeves returns to the criminal underworld in ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’.
Director Chad Stahelski (left) and actor Keanu Reeves upon arrival at the screening of 'John Wick: Chapter 2' in London on Friday, February 10.
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It's easy to think that originality in Hollywood is dead. Case in point: The LEGO Batman Movie, a film built on a line of toys based on a comic book character. The cynic in me wants to give up on cinema altogether. Then a movie like 2014's John Wick comes around, the creation of long-time stunt coordinators and first-time directors.

Compared to the first film, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a definite upping of the ante. It's never going to be as impressive as that first go-round, but does enough to keep the film feeling fresh despite stepping over familiar ground.

A BIT OF FAMILIARITY

Then again, avid viewers of the first film might be slightly disappointed at just how familiar this movie is. Many of the same buttons of the first film are hit (sometimes exactly). I was glad for the mix of new, interesting characters and added dimensions to John Wick's world of coordinated assassins. There's an air of immense playfulness and creativity, a quality that runs from its world expansion to the many, many ways John Wick knows how to inflict punishment.

It's a good thing John is an assassin and not a primary schoolteacher.

A staple of the first film is the way the action felt as focused as John Wick himself. That remains the best element of this film. John Wick moves like a force of nature. The way he dispatches violence is swift, merciless and wickedly fun. It shows immense skill on the part of the directors, the kind of skill it takes to choreograph extended action sequences in the way most scripts craft dialogue.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is an example of what makes a satisfying sequel. Its stakes are greater and, while a bit too familiar at times, has more than enough new material to warrant the attention of fans of the first film. That said, if you watched that film and found it wasn't for you, stay home. This is not going to change any hearts, nor any minds.

I was happy to see Mr Wick back in business.

Rating: Big-screen watch