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John Wick: Chapter 2 2017 ****

As with the Terminator films, the sequel to John Wick faced a specific challenge; how to expand the universe of the first film while staying true to the stripped down ethos; John Wick barely lasts eighty minutes, and that brevity and focus is part of the appeal. Taking place a mere four days after the first film, John Wick 2 takes the franchise in a different direction, taking Wick (Keanu Reeves) over to Italy and then back to NYC with a price on his head. Wick’s gradual distancing from Winston (Ian McShane) and the establishment at the Continental Hotel provides a wider frame than the revenge theme of the original, and it’s fun to see Franco Nero as Julius, the manager of the Hotel Continental in Rome. Chad Stahelski’s film also takes time to investigate elements of the Wick mystique, including a graphic illustration of Wick’s ability to wield a pencil. The action, including a terrific car-wrecking sequence as an opener and a delirious art-gallery shoot-em-up, delivers in spades, and if the element of surprise has gone, there’s plenty for genre fans to soak up here, not least Reeves’ impeccable, graceful presence as the world’s best assassin.

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