“John Wick: Chapter 2” (R)
After the blistering success of the first film in 2014, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back with a vengeance in “John Wick: Chapter 2,” a sequel far superior than the already entertaining original.
The plot is simple: Wick is trying to return to retirement with his new dog when a powerful mobster from his past insists he honors a marker — a blood oath to repay a debt — and wants him to carry out a hit. As Wick quickly discovers, though, no hit is ever clean. Before he knows is, Wick is the target, and that’s when the killing machine inside of him kicks into high gear.
The action is frenetic and completely engrossing as Wick takes out the bad guys one by one, whether be with the use of guns, hand-to-hand combat or even a pencil. The 52-year-old Reeves is spectacular form and incredible shape as Wick, and easily carries the movie on his own as the body count piles up in the hundreds.
There is one disappointing aspect to “John Wick: Chapter 2,” as those expecting the big “Matrix” reunion between Reeves and Laurence Fishburne is short-lived. Studio marketers are definitely guilty of a bait-and-switch movie here, since Fishburne – while brilliant – is only in the movie for about 5 minutes.
Hopefully he will be a big part of “John Wick Chapter 3” because a another sequel is inevitable — and unlike most sequels, is completely welcome.
Lammometer: 9 out of 10.
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“50 Shades Darker” (R)
It should be called “50 Shades Dumber.” Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are back in this brutally boring sequel to “50 Shades of Grey,” a dull and predictable “romance” movie about the further sexcapades of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.
The movie is like a bad, kinky soap opera, as Christian stalks, er, tries to win Anastasia back after she left him at the hapless conclusion of the first movie.
Any attempts at finding any chemistry between Johnson and Dornan remain futile is “50 Shades Darker,” and the acting is as flat as it was in the first film. Dornan is completely out of his depth, and Johnson, who was actually pretty good in the first film, is terrible here. The only spark in the film is Kim Basinger, who goes the subtle route to play a psychotic older woman who damaged Grey in a previous master-submissive relationship.
Lammometer: 3 out of 10