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Style over substance, 'John Wick: Chapter 2' certainly looks slick

“John Wick: Chapter 2” – “I’m not that guy anymore.” – John Wick

“You could have fooled me.” – Everyone

In the opening sequence of “John Wick: Chapter 2”, John (Keanu Reeves) retrieves his stolen car, a black Ford Mustang, from a Russian mafia boss, which is a continuation of the first film. Shortly after, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) arrives at John’s front door and gives him an “offer he can’t refuse”, if you catch my drift. John replies with the above quote, which at the time appears completely ridiculous. Just five (maybe seven) screen time-minutes earlier, John laid about two dozen men to waste in a flurry of punches, kicks, bullets, and destructive driving maneuvers.

Although Mr. Wick does not want to be that guy, he still is that guy after just seven minutes of screen time and – I believe – one movie-day after his own personal demolition derby on the aforementioned Russian gang.

Narratively, director Chad Stahelski must not be paying attention, but to be frank, the entire plot cruises on autopilot in a cliché-riddled story. A story infinitesimally light on substance and heavily weighted on style, but undoubtedly, Stahelski does construct creative set pieces with whiz-bang production values.

The action in question features the deadly errand that D’Antonio has for John. Mr. Wick travels to Rome to fulfill his one-note mission and is greeted by a few eloquent baddies to help equip him for his quest. They close with parting comments like, “Do enjoy your party, Mr. Wick,” which seems more suited for a royal dance than a bloody shoot-up.

Then again, what is that old saying? “When in Rome?”

John – who is also dubbed, The Boogeyman – works a straight-up bounty hunter gig, but under beautifully-filmed settings, including a techno rock concert, a vast array of catacombs and a few, memorable others. Although the action feels completely cartoonish - meaning that John Wick continually survives a series of major opposing onslaughts of violence - they do thrill, even though one carries little doubt of each individual outcome.

Reeves carries a convincing aura of invincibility as Wick and is perfectly capable of his character’s infamous nickname. Since the man “has no wife, no life and no home”, he does gain our sympathy. Thankfully his trusty dog without a name is by his side, when he is not working, of course.

He does have one other companion. Vengeance. For fans of slick action films, you will be grateful for Wick’s second closest friend. Let’s be clear though, “John Wick: Chapter 2” doesn’t break any new boundaries, and we do know who that guy is. We have seen in “him” in about 10,000 previous movies.

(2.5/4 stars)

Image credits: Summit Entertainment

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