John Wick: Chapter 2 Blu-ray Review: I'm Thinking He's Back and That's Great News

Expect to see this on "Best Blu-rays of 2017" lists.
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Not for the faint of heart, John Wick returns in another action-packed, stylish shoot-'em-up that sees our "hero" leave audiences breathless as he leaves behind another massive body count in his wake. 

Picking up shortly after the first film, the prologue finds retired assassin John Wick in hot pursuit of his stolen 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1, which has been stored in the chop shop of Russian mobster Abram Tarasov (Peter Stormare), uncle of Iosef, who brought John back into action by stealing his car and killing his dog.  It's clearly the principle of the matter to John as he purposely damages the car while damaging those trying to stop him from leaving with it.

One night, John is visited by Italian gangster Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) who wants him to make good on a marker.  John refuses but is pressed into service.  Santino wants John to kill his sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini) so he can rise up and take her place.  However, John is double crossed as Santino's men try to kill him after the job in order to cover Santino's tracks and hide his involvement.  When they fail, Santino puts out a bounty of $7 million, ensuring some skillful killers will be coming after John as he comes after Santino.

Director Chad Stahelski and his Chapter 2 crew, from the actors and stunt team to the cinematography and production design departments, have assembled a number of captivating action sequences.  Fighting in the mirrored rooms of the museum was impressively staged as there is no sign of the camera or operator.  Many of the scenes are intense, brutal and bloody, and certainly not for everyone.  

Screenwriter Derek Kolstad expands the Wick mythology beyond what he created in the first film.  He introduces The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) and his underlings who pose as homeless along the streets of New York.  The Continental hotel, a free zone where no "business" may take place, is no longer unique as there is also one in Rome, managed by Julius (Franco Nero).  The story ends with a great plot twist that is unexpected but believable.  It sets up the Chapter Three, which was assured by the film's box-office success.

The video has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1.  The colors pop off the screen in vibrant hues right from the start during the nighttime chase through the streets of New York City.  The blacks ooze with inkiness yet don't crush, and whites are bright and accurate.  Each contribute to a strong contrast.  Objects appear in sharp focus and with fine texture detail. 

The audio is available in Dolby Atmos, and while I couldn't experience it to its fullest, it still came across fantastic over my 7.1 surround system.  It's a powerful track that immerses the viewer.  Vehicles and weapons fire crosses moves through channels.  The LFE delivers strong bass support. Ambient effects and music can be heard in the surrounds.  The track is loud but never distorts.  The dynamic range is wide and the elements are mixed together well.  On occassion, the dialogue can be a tad too quiet. 

The disc is packed with special features.  Friends since they worked together on The Matrix, Stahelski and Reeves deliver the commentary track.  The remaining bonus material all appears in HD.  

There are three deleted scenes (8 min) titled "Aurelio", where the mechanic gets roughed up by D’Antonio who is searching for something; "The Cleaner", where D’Antonio and Winston have a discussion about progress and principles; and "The Vatican", where John visits with the Pope.  "Retro Wick: Exploring the Unexpected Success of John Wick" (5 min): A brief look at both movies with the Chapter 2 cast & crew.  "Training John Wick" (12 min): Viewers get to see some of Reeves' training regiment.  "WICK-vizzed" (HD, 5 min): A reveal of how the multiple choreography pre-visualizations help execute the scenes.

"Friends, Confidantes: The Keanu/Chad Partnership" (10 min): A mutual admiration society as they sit and sing each other's praises.  In raving about the duo's partnership, a stuntman says he's never heard about a stunt double later directing an actor, apparently unaware of the Hal Needham/Burt Reynolds partnership.  "As Above, So Below: The Underworld of John Wick" (5 min): An exploration of the expansion of the film series mythology.  "Car Fu Ride-Along" (5 min): The vehicle-related choreography is explored.  "Chamber Check: Evolution of a Fight Scene" (10 min): How the fight scenes are prepared with training and choreogrpahy.

"Wick's Toolbox" (8 min): The weapons.  'Nuff said.  "A Museum Tour with Sir Jonathan Wick" (2 min): A guide takes viewers through the musuem location juxtaposed with scenes from the movie.  "Kill Count" (3 min): Skipping the prologue, most of the kills are edited together with a running count.  "Dog Wick Short" (2 min): A funny spoof trailer switching the roles of the first movie.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is sure to make "Best Action Films of 2017" lists at year's end and the Blu-ray is sure to be on comparable lists.

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