‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ Review: John Wick is back, but with less dog-driven purpose

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Keanu Reeves returns as a scarily efficient hitman with a new dog at his side in “John Wick: Chapter 2.”

If you just want to know whether the dog dies in this film (as it did in the first) good news — the dog lives! The pit bull puppy — who Wick never names, but just calls “boy” — is clearly devoted to his human and even gets to sleep on the big bed. He’s there when Wick’s home is destroyed but escapes unscathed. While Wick reluctantly goes on a mission to Rome, Boy is safely left in the care of Continental employee Charon (Lance Reddick) back in New York, so he’s absent for much of the film.

While the death of poor Daisy in the first installment is devastating, it also sets in motion Wick’s righteous reign of vengeance. He’s a man on a mission and we root for him wholeheartedly, no matter how many men he kills along the way.

In the sequel, he’s got to assassinate a high-profile target because of an old debt he owes an Italian crime lord who helped him get out of the life. Wick doesn’t want do the job, but he has no choice. We feel the same way: we’re conflicted about his having to kill for far less noble reasons.¬† Some tactical errors on Wick’s part mean he’s killing people he doesn’t have to along the way and that’s a lot harder to root for, even if he’s killing them with tremendous ability and style.

The action is brisk and terrific, especially Wick’s breathtaking hand-to-hand fights with the equally driven and talented Cassian (Common). The sense of humor from the first film is fully intact¬† and the cast of supporting characters remains as wonderfully colorful, from Ian McShane to actor Franco Nero as his Italian counterpart to Ruby Rose as a deaf assassin It’s also good to see Reeves reunited with his “Matrix” co-star Lawrence Fishburne as a powerful man who’s torn between helping Wick and joining the hunting party.

The film ends with Wick (and his dog) on the run, again due to some not very smart decisions on Wick’s part. Will I be there for “John Wick: Chapter 3?” Definitely. But I’ll always prefer the sleek, almost existential purity of the first film.

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Rating: 3paws

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