He once killed three men in a bar with a pencil. Yes, that’s right, there’s another John Wick movie.
The bloody delights of 2014’s “John Wick” were plentiful. They included a cartoonishly indestructible hero and the best motivation in a hit-man movie in a zillion years: The bad guys killed his dog. They must all die.
“John Wick: Chapter 2” isn’t as lively as the first film, in part because the motivation is less wonderfully absurd. But it brings back the same director (Chad Stahelski) and screenwriter (Derek Kolstad), and includes a batch of wink-wink references to the original.
It also brings back Keanu Reeves, still limber and still wearing a dark suit and tie. Wick begins the sequel by recovering his Mustang from a relative (droll Peter Stormare) of the dog-killers.
It’s a slick curtain-raiser, and pretty much sets the tone. The story itself is fairly conventional: Wick is forced to complete a job, despite his desire to retire — it’s a rule in his syndicate of assassins that he can’t say no when given a “marker.”
So Wick is off to Rome, where the guy giving the kill order (Riccardo Scamarcio) wants his own sister (regal Claudia Gerini) taken out. Her bodyguard (Common), also a member of the assassins’ club, might have something to say about that.
If the outline is more ordinary, the movie still scores big with its not-quite-real world. One fun idea is bringing back Keanu’s “Matrix” co-star Laurence Fishburne for a hammy cameo.
The ultra-violent sequel indulges too much in video-game action, with Wick cruising madly through dozens upon dozens of soon-to-be-dead opponents. But it has enough novelty (and Ian McShane returning as the big boss) to push it through.
And the film repeatedly plays the most amusing card from the first movie: the idea that there is a league of registered assassins who operate by strict rules, and who congregate in a secret hotel-hangout in New York City.
Within the walls of the syndicate’s hotels, no violence can occur. This sets up the repeated spectacle of hit men (hit women, too) pausing in their efforts to kill each other and enjoying a civilized cocktail together.
John Wick’s dialogue has been wisely cut down, so that Reeves can concentrate on glowering and throwing karate chops. Needless to say, this plays to his strengths.
Add a groovy “I wonder what happens next?” ending, and you’ve got a new James Bond franchise on your hands. See you in a couple of years, Mr. Wick.
“John Wick Chapter 2” (3 stars)
Not as wonderfully absurd as the first one but still an entertaining action picture: Hit man John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is pressed into an Italian job, but repercussions follow. The most fun thing about this super-violent tale is the polite, rule-bound world of assassins it imagines.
Rating: R, for violence, language
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Sundance Cinemas, Thornton Place Stadium, Woodinville, Cascade Mall