Video game designers often rhapsodize about Core Loops, those small, quickly repeatable moments of coolness that can keep players glued to the controller past the point of thumb-trauma. 2014’s John Wick made this phenomenon into a spectator sport, devising a seemingly infinite (and distressingly satisfying) variety of ways for Keanu Reeves to inflict grievous bodily harm on a steady stream of henchmen. John Wick: Chapter 2 somehow managed to further refine the formula, ramping up the action scenes to the verge of head-popping nirvana, while also adding new wrinkles to the agreeably odd surrounding mythology. (This is a universe in which literally Every Second Person You See is an assassin.) They were both just about perfect, in a Red Meat/Reptile Brain way.
In the title role of John Wick, Keanu Reeves plays the sort of cool, silent assassin who has only a few dozen lines. He’s a slick, lethal hit man; why should he talk much? And yet you wish he’d shut up already. This movie needs only a simple setup to function, but there’s John Wick, handcuffed to a chair and telling the bad guys why he’s doing what he’s doing. We get it, man. Now why can’t you be as terse as Ryan Gosling in Drive?
The simple setup goes like this: Wick’s been out of the assassin game for five years, living a normal life for a while. His wife dies of illness, leaving behind a surprise puppy to console her husband. After the hothead son (Alfie Allen of Game of Thrones) of a Russian gangster (Michael Nyqvist) steals Wick’s car and kills the dog, merciless revenge is guaranteed.