" Failure is not quite so frightening as regret "
The Dish

MRQE Top Critic

Operation Condor

Jackie Chan meets Indiana Jones —Andrea Birgers (review...)

Chan borrows from Raiders

Sponsored links

John Wick. Whoa. That dude is cool and Chapter 2 of his story is a big, bad bullet opera that leads to one excellent demand: there better be a Chapter 3.

Wickipedia: The World of Wick

John Wick and the Dog With No Name
John Wick and the Dog With No Name

A few minutes into Chapter 2, there’s a pang of disappointment, a sense of dread that this sequel to a surprisingly fresh action movie might be all out of surprises. The story picks up where the first movie left off, now with a Russian kingpin seeking to avenge his brother and nephew. It was his nephew who, in the first chapter, stole Wick’s car and killed his puppy, pulling out of retirement the master assassin Wick had so earnestly wanted to leave in the past. Going back to that storyline is merely a retread, an insular spin on the original material.

Well, as it turns out, this episode with the relative — which features a hefty body count, both human and auto — is merely an appetizer, a pre-title card segment that sets the tone for the next 2 hours. It’s a futile exercise in trying to kill two birds with one stone: end Wick’s life and total his 1969 Mustang.

Once the main storyline begins to develop, it’s exciting to see the world of John Wick evolve and expand. Fleshed out, so to speak. As the Russian kingpin explains to a minion, John Wick is a legend. He once killed three men in a pub using only a pencil — and, if anything, the fantastic stories about John Wick have been watered down.

Reflections of the Soul

Given the character of John Wick was — for all intents and purposes — established in the first 15 minutes of the first movie, Chapter 2 is a wall-to-wall action piece with plenty of wince-inducing mayhem and carnage. There’s an exponentially higher body count, but even though a little less gunplay would’ve been nice, the action is also oddly borderline cathartic.

Even as the blood splatters, this collective of assassins is governed by a unifying code. There are two primary rules. As it’s noted, without those rules, we’d all be living like animals. First: no business (meaning bloodshed) is to be conducted on the grounds of the Continental, the exclusive posh assassins’ club that doubles as a luxurious international hotel chain. The other rule: no marker can be turned down.

That marker is one of the components of the growing world of Wick and it ties into the completion of a mission that led to Wick’s retirement in favor of a happier, quieter life. The marker is a blood oath coin, a tactile symbol of a code of honor.

When John left the syndicate, he pulled off quite a trick. But his return — by way of that nasty incident with the Russians — set off a chain reaction that propels the action to a new level of intensity.

Wick gets mired in syndicate politics and intrigue, with a payback of cross and double-cross in the thick of an ever-widening network of assassins, many of whom take cover as common street beggars.

The Boogeyman Returns

Only a couple weeks ago, xXx returned after 15 years for a wild comic book ride that made the original xXx seem downright quaint. Here, after a little more than 2 years, Wick is back and he, too, makes his first adventure seem rather subdued. Chapter 2 does what the best sequels do: it further develops the world of its progenitor and it puts the lead characters in new places with more interesting and complicated situations.

It is action mixed with a calm, cool, dry sense of humor. After one particularly painful fight, including multiple tumbles down Roman stairs, a Continental voice of reason defuses the situation between Wick (Keanu Reeves, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and Cassian (Common, Suicide Squad). “May I suggest a visit to the bar?” Wounds begin to heal over gin and bourbon. Sort of.

What’s interesting is how director Chad Stahelski has rather effortlessly channeled the vibe of gritty graphic novels by way of colorful subtitles. Freeze the celluloid and it’s a beautiful comic book frame. Zack Snyder, on the other hand, labors — rather unsuccessfully — to achieve that same elegance in his mega-budget DC endeavors. And Stahelski ensures the fun factor is kept to the fore throughout the mayhem.

The assassins live in a world of sophistication and high style. It’s James Bond’s world, only turned upside down and inside out, operating in an underworld instead of the more proper — and respectable — auspices of a national government. Suits and armaments are all purchased with the same snootiness of fine wines.

Question the System

Wick stands out as the classiest of the classy assassins. He’s fluent in Russian, Italian, American Sign Language – and his English ain’t bad, either.

Sure. The world of John Wick is built around an extremely simple premise, but it’s the exceptional execution of the premise and the vivid world in which it operates which makes the Wick movies so noteworthy. As the scale escalates and more characters enter the picture, more colorful flourishes are thrown in to support the escalation. That includes a slick “Accounts Payable” system that is so old school it’s new again. Tattoo-sporting ladies — young and old — operate pneumatic tubes, telephones and typewriters while processing orders.

Those orders include a $7 million bounty for Wick. That one’s issued via text message to the New York City distribution list. By the end of the movie, another order is issued. This one’s for $14 million and it’s distributed globally.

Yeah. That sets the stage for some awesome possibilities in Chapter 3. It better happen.