(US/China - 2017)
Directed by Chad Stahelski. Written by Derek Kolstad. Cast: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Franco Nero, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan, Peter Stormare, Claudia Gerini, Peter Serafinowicz, Thomas Sadoski, Tobias Segal, Wass Stevens, Luca Mosca, Chukwudi Iwuji, Simone Spinazze. (R, 122 mins)
A sleeper hit in 2014, JOHN WICK was held in such ambivalent regard by Lionsgate subsidiary Summit that it almost went straight to VOD until someone decided to arrange some test screenings and the audience response was through the roof. An electrifying, non-stop action thriller about a retired assassin--an unstoppable killing machine known to those in his profession as "The Boogeyman" and "Baba Yaga"-- on a mission of vengeance when the son of a Russian crime boss steals his car and kills his dog, JOHN WICK was filled with memorable shootouts, quotable dialogue ("Oh..."), a sly sense of humor, and an almost graphic novel-like sense of imaginative world building. In this world, the assassins have accoutrements like their own gold coin currency and they stay at the Continental, a safe sanctuary where business is conducted and violence forbidden. Friends become foes and back again, and it's understood that it's "just business." But things turned personal for John Wick (Keanu Reeves): on the day after the funeral of his cancer-stricken wife (Bridget Moynahan), his car is stolen and his dog killed by Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen), the sniveling brat son of Wick's former boss, Russian crime lord Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist). Wick declares war on Tarasov and single-handedly wipes out his entire organization over the course of the film, all while dodging an endless parade of fellow assassins after the bounty placed on his head by Viggo. JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 picks up shortly after where the first film left off, with Viggo's vengeful brother Abram (Peter Stormare) waiting in his secured office as his men try--and fail--to stop Wick, who's arrived at the Tarasov warehouse to reclaim his stolen car. Wick confronts Abram and spares his life, offering him a drink as a mutually agreed peace offering.
THE RAID 2 and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD among the decade's greatest achievements in action cinema. It's that good.