MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ pays its debts with bullets, action


If less talk and more action is your modus operandi, then “John Wick: Chapter 2” is probably right up your alley.

The movie, directed by Chad Stahelski, is action-packed, and Keanu Reeves excels as the retired hitman who can’t escape his profession no matter how hard he tries.

Early in his career, I found Reeves annoying and often miscast in movies like “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” or the Kenneth Branagh’s otherwise delightful “Much Ado About Nothing,” but with the two John Wick films, Reeves is having a bit of a career renaissance and his straightforward, earnest delivery really works for the character.

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The plot is pretty basic. An old associate calls in a marker from Wick that our anti-hero can’t refuse. Wick knows if he is successful, it’s going to turn his world and the worldwide crime underworld on its head. But, Wick’s a man of his word, and he will not be deterred from his mission no matter the consequences.

The action in the film is outstanding from Wick’s opening assault on a crime lord that features a wild and violent game of vehicular chicken through his completion of his mission and then to its ultimate fallout.

Fans of the original movie will be pleased to learn that The Continental, a hotel that operates as an underworld safe haven where no “business” can be conducted, once again plays a key role in the plot.

Wick engages in an epic fight with the rapper Common, who is also strong in the film, that’s an homage to the rollicking fight between John Wayne and Victor McLaglen in John Ford’s “The Quiet Man,” where the two men stop their fight to down a beer before resuming the fisticuffs.

Fans of the “Matrix” will also get a laugh when Laurence Fishburne shows up as the Bowery King, a crime lord who oversees a network of crooks and hoods disguised as the homeless.

On the whole, the sequel is not quite as strong as the original, but “John Wick: Chapter 2” is a well executed and beautifully shot action movie that leaves the viewer with a smile and the door wide open for more sequels.

2 hrs. 11 min.
Grade: B

Classic Corner

“The Man Who Knew Too Much”

Remakes have always been a thing in Hollywood. Even some of the best directors opted to take a second stab at their own films, and Alfred Hitchcock was not immune.

While still working in Britain, Hitchcock filmed the 1934 version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” starring Peter Lorre as the assassin in the lurid-for-its-time thriller about a cult kidnapping. While the original is a gripping motion picture, most critics feel Hitchcock’s 1956 remake is the superior film

On his second go at the plot in 1956, Hitchcock crafted the story on a grander scale with the thriller cast around an assassination plot with Hollywood’s everyman Jimmy Stewart and his co-star Doris Day caught in the middle.

Stewart and Day play Dr. Ben and Jo McKenna, an American couple on vacation with their son Hank (Christopher Olsen) in Morocco, and they make a great pair as a relatively ordinary family trapped in a web of intrigue they neither realize nor understand until it is almost too late.

While visiting the outdoor market, a dying man passes off a piece of information to Ben that places his entire family in trouble. The McKennas don’t know whom to trust when Hank is kidnapped, and Ben and Jo are left to their own devices in attempting to rescue their son and possibly save a dignitary who is targeted for death.

No actor has every played the frustrated, ordinary Joe part better than Stewart, even though it can be argued Ben and Jo aren’t exactly regular folks. But Stewart and Day sell the plot perfectly in the white-knuckle thriller that keeps you on your toes.

Though the film isn’t remotely a musical, Hitchcock didn’t waste Day‘s lovely voice. He worked one of Day’s signature songs “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” cleverly into the climax of his film. Her performance won an Academy Award for Best Song.

While being interviewed about his work by Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock remarked that his 1934 movie was a film made by a talented novice, while a seasoned professional created the remake.

I like the pulpy, gritty feel of the original, but it’s hard for any movie to top a Hitchcock plot played out by the likes of Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day.