John Wick: Chapter 2

You should see him AFTER the fight.

When last we saw John Wick, at the end of his out-of-nowhere 2014 cult hit, the grudgingly reactivated assassin had avenged, with extreme prejudice, the murder of his dog and the theft of his car and was ready to enjoy retirement again. Alas, it was not to be. There were too many unresolved issues — not about the story, which was satisfyingly concluded (but which the sequel seeks to extend anyway), but about the world the story took place in. With its codes of conduct and special currency and unseen hierarchy, “John Wick” was more than an ordinary shoot-’em-up.

So is “John Wick: Chapter 2,” the bigger, longer, not-quite-as-good follow-up. Again directed by Chad Stahelski and written by Derek Kolstad, the sequel spends its first 20 minutes doing something highly entertaining but completely unnecessary: sending John Wick (Keanu Reeves) to get his beloved car (which we’d assumed was destroyed) from the surviving member of the Russian crime family he slaughtered last time. Uncle Abram is played by Peter Stormare with the same crazy energy as his predecessors, and the league of taxi-driving goons he dispatches to stop Wick are mowed down with the same crunching, relentless fervor. Wick and the goons use their cars as weapons (I don’t know that I’ve seen a movie in which more people are intentionally struck by vehicles), along with their fists, feet, and guns. It’s marvelous.

Once we’re done re-tying old threads, the movie gets to its new story, set not many days later. An old colleague of John’s, suave Italian museum curator/hitman Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), comes a-callin’ with a marker. Seems John owes him a debt (a “blood oath”!) from before, and while Santino let it go when John retired, now that he’s back in the game, well, it’s time to collect. John refuses the job; Santino takes retaliatory measures (don’t worry, John’s new dog is safe); things escalate pretty quickly from there.

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B- (2 hrs., 2 min.; R, abundant strong violence, some profanity, a little nudity.)