John Wick Chapter 2 — 7/10

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 (2017, Chad Stahelski)

If 2014’s JOHN WICK was the 2014 Golden State Warriors with Steph Curry (overachieving underdogs, lovable, talented) then JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 is the 2017 Golden State Warriors with Curry and Kevin Durant: over-stuffed, more expensive, believing its own hype, and the big guy in town. A lean 101 minutes, the original film was a nonstop freight train of gas-fueled action. This one is bloated out to 122 minutes, full of pregnant pauses in conversation and grand posturing fit for a movie that thinks it’s the shit.

Luckily for Stahelski and his team, it kind of is. What it loses in its narrative efficiency and fresh-faced surprise, it makes up for in even bigger action scenes. Everything from hand-to-hand fighting to car-as-weapon balletics to HK-styled gun-fu is terrific, even if some of the “hidden” cuts make the long takes jerky and strained. There are plenty of “Holy SHIT!” moments to make you jolt in the theater, and the blood and gore are a-plenty.

I do wish Derek Kolstad’s lame-ish script had figured out a few things better. What’s the deal with the Chuk Iwuji character? He’s introduced in the Gianna sequence as if he’s going to pay off later, but when we see him again at the end it’s a throwaway. And after PASSENGERS and now this, is Laurence Fishburne just going to show up in movies for pretentious scenes to stand around talking too much? This MATRIX reunion didn’t go as I’m sure Stahelski had hoped.

Too many threads belaboring a need to flesh out this alternate universe of hitmen all over the planet are what keeps JWC2 from being great, but when it gets down to business — like the furtive gunshots in the subway station, the train fight, the stairway brawl, and the hall-of-mirrors ENTER THE DRAGON callback — it’s ’90s action movie heaven.

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