4. “John Wick: Chapter 2” (2017)
With the first sequel, it was a time of wobbly expansion. The first “John Wick” proved to be an unexpected hit, so the desire to make more of both the character and the quasi-mythological world around him is both understandable and done in an earnest way. The problem, of course, is that the central drive of the character (and that first movie) is gone. His wife has passed away, the dog she got him was killed and he got his pound of flesh (and then some) as revenge. There’s a sense of the world returning, somewhat, to normalcy, at the end of the first film, so the reason to drag him back into the violent criminal underworld once again feels more forced than it does in any of the other sequels (something something blood debt). Still, the movie is a great time – from the opening car chase to a nearly silent sequence where John and his new foe (played with velvety smoothness by Common) are shooting at each other inside a massive New York train station.
This is also the installment that introduced Laurence Fishburne as “The Bowery King,” who has proved to be one of the franchise’s best, most lovable characters. And the ending of “John Wick: Chapter 2,” where all-out war is declared on Wick, has reverberated through the other movies. It’s a thrilling, wholly unexpected conclusion to a movie that, at times, felt like more of the same.