***½/**** Image A Sound A Extras B+
starring Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane
written by Derek Kolstad
directed by Chad Stahelski
by Bryant Frazer John Wick: Chapter 2 opens, somewhat incongruously, with shots from a Buster Keaton action sequence projected on the side of a midtown Manhattan office building. Make no mistake: That's not homage--it's a declaration of principles. Hell, it's a boast. A master of stunts, sight gags, and visual effects, Keaton was perhaps the most sophisticated silent filmmaker when it came to truly understanding and exploiting cinematic space--the magical Méliès, maybe, to Chaplin's more grounded Lumière. For much of film history, his influence was felt most vividly in movie musicals, where the athleticism of Gene Kelly, especially, seemed to call back to Keaton's knockabout screen presence. In the 1970s, the best musical action on screen was happening in Hong Kong, as Bruce Lee's lethal martial arts style laid the groundwork for Jackie Chan's more broadly comic (though no less precisely conceived and executed) fighting style. Chan was no fan of guns, but John Woo developed a balletic, two-fisted style of gunplay while imagining romcom mainstay Chow Yun-Fat as an action hero in the Clint Eastwood mold. That brings us more or less to John Wick, as director Chad Stahelski and the army of drivers, stunt coordinators, military veterans, tactical firearms consultants, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructors who helped turn Keanu Reeves into a precision-tuned killing machine assert their legitimacy as heirs to a tradition that began in the days of hand-cranked cameras and nitrate stock.