Summit Entertainment     122 Minutes     R

There may be no singing, but plenty of strategic choreography in this film. Sequels usually don’t get much love, but Director Chad Stahelski has taken his winning formula of the original John Wick and amped up the car chases, gun battles, and the overall body count.

Stahelski is a renown stuntman himself and he brings that skill set and  respect for the craft to his directing.   As John Wick (Keanu Reeves) winds his way through endless streams of assassins hell-bent on killing him. He dispatches them in a merciless ballet of arm drags, flips, knife fights and gun shots through the brain. Wick even finds ways to add to his impressive number of kills using a pencil as the murder weapon!

It’s clear that Director Stahelski is adhering to his own set of rules and integrity in the making of this film. He has great respect for the action genre and the actors performing the demanding physical stunts. The blocking of the shots and the framing of the action is crisp and direct. The editing is also cut like a dance sequence, as if following the beat of the music. This allows the audience appreciate the action. It one of our peeves when action, or dance sequences are over-cut to the point of not being able to follow the movement.

The climactic battle even takes place in a series of mirrored rooms. It’s as if we’re thrust into  a fun-house of death. The audience at our screening would alternately gasp and laugh as the on-screen carnage multiplied. There are some odd, animated captions that don’t add much to the film but are fun add-ons.

This movie is also has some weird, off-beat moments.  Reeves meets up with his Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne. Fishburne is The Bowery King, who runs a network of NYC killers disguised as panhandlers. He cooly talks about death while playing with homing pigeons on the roof of his Brooklyn headquarters. Here’s something to look for: Fishburne ordering up a gun for John Wick. He delivers a great line that you’ll be seeing all over the internet soon!

Yes, there is a plot here too. Writer Derek Kolstad returns to pick up the threads of the first episode. John Wick once again is dragged back into his former life as the world’s most dangerous assassin. Even in this world of killers there are rules and codes that cannot be broken. In this case, smarmy Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scarmarcio) holds a marker on John Wick. When D’Antonio orders a hit on his own sister Gianna, (Claudia Gerini) to take her place at the top of the criminal empire, it’s a blood oath that Wick must obey.

This takes Wick from New York City to Rome. There are a few fun moments before he embarks on the  mission. John Wick visits his gun shop “sommelier” (Peter Serafinowicz) where he gets a “tasting” of exquisite firearms. Then on to his tailor (played by the film’s cost designer Luca Mosca) to get fitted for a slick-looking, but, of course, bulletproof suit.

That suit gets a bullseye planted on his back as soon as Gianna takes her last breath. The streets suddenly fill with professionals aiming for John Wick. Among them is Gianna’s personal bodyguard, Cassian (Common) who turns out to be one of John Wick’s toughest foes. His cruelest adversary turns out to be D’Antonio’s top bodyguard, a mute petite, but deadly woman, Ares, played by Ruby Rose (Orange Is The New Black).

This whole enterprise of murder and payback is overseen by Winston (Ian McShane) who rules this underworld with his own code of rules and ethics. He simply states the case: “Rules; without them, we live with the animals.” That’s how he can operate the “Continental”, a luxury hotel and spa where no “business” may ever be conducted. It’s how a killer can have a drink with the guy he just tried to kill.

This whole alternate universe revolves around John Wick, so great an assassin he’s known as “The Boogeyman.” This persona is made for Keanu Reeves and he inhabits it completely. He loves three things; his late wife, his dog (he has a new one) and his car. There’s never a hint that once he sets out on a mission he will not finish the job. Even the absurd abuse his body takes, like being slammed by cars multiple times, never slows him down. This is a great action role for him and every once in awhile you get a little glimmer of a wink in Keanu’s eye that let’s you know he’s enjoying this deadly ride.

If you enjoyed the original then John Wick:Chapter 2 is a must-see movie. You’re already in the know about this alternate world of assassins and their warped sense of morality. This starts with 2 car chases and multiple murders before the opening credits so be warned there is not much value placed on human life. John Wick desperately wants to escape life in the underworld, but he keeps getting dragged right back into it. Looks like fans of this franchise will happily drag themselves to the theater for this one, and maybe a John Wick 3.