By: Hawk Ripjaw (A Toast) –
John Wick: Chapter 2 picks up soon after John Wick ends. Having avenged Daisy the Dead Beagle Puppy, Wick (Keanu Reeves) realizes that he still doesn’t have the car they stole, so he storms the gates of Abram’s (brother of Michael Nyqvist’s character in John Wick) garage to get it back. After doing what he does best, and considerably battering up both himself and his car, Wick is ready to retire, for real this time. Unfortunately, he’s home for like, a couple of hours before fellow Continental member Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up with a Marker–a seal indicating a pact that Wick made with D’Antonio years ago, with a favor to be repaid by Wick at any time. The favor that D’Antonio is collecting on is for Wick to kill D’Antonio’s sister. Failing to realize that John Wick is such a badass that even his enemies are part of his fan club, D’Antonio eventually double-crosses Wick after he begrudgingly delivers on his debt. Wick, for his part, has just been given another reason to show his enemies why he’s called The Boogeyman.
The story of John Wick: Chapter 2 is meatier and less personal than that of its predecessor, but it works: the original film was an introduction to a force of nature of a man, a slick revenge action thriller with delicate worldbuilding sprinkled throughout to add flavor to a basic narrative. Now that we know who Wick is, we get to see more of the world he is a part of: The Continental, the secret organization of assassins that know each other better than you know more of your Facebook friends, have an economy that operates purely on doubloons, and live by a set of rules that would make a Catholic blush. Each of these things was established in 2014’s film, and this sequel gives much more attention to the inner workings of the 24/7 Assassin Convention without fully giving away the farm.
This means that the movie, while spending time on some of the politics and weird rules of The Continental, doesn’t have the pure forward momentum of a dead puppy that the first movie had. But when it gets going, damn does it get fucking going. This actually works, upon reflection: we all know how much of a killing machine Wick is, so that the movie taking some time to wait and tease with what we know is coming just makes it that much more enjoyable when everything finally explodes into action. Yes, I was making innuendo about foreplay.
The action is as beautifully choreographed and cleanly photographed as ever. Reeves, as Wick, executes his enemies with brutal, godlike precision and an impressive attention to detail concerning magazine count and realistic reload form. Wick has the grace of a killer ballerina as races through Headshot Heaven dispatching faceless thugs and more closely-matched fellow agents. Wick’s face-off against Cassian (Common) in a subway is staged and shot beautifully, as is a climactic Enter the Dragon/Man with the Golden Gun-esque mirror room sequence. Every colorful frame feels ripped out of a graphic novel, and once again the cheerfully sadistic sense of humor ranges from wry tongue-in-cheek self-seriousness to blatantly hilarious combat moments and dialogue exchanges.
Legendary stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski once again assembles a spectacular masterclass in action cinema. It’s epic, clear, and supremely confident in its stuntwork. The large handful of returning characters from the previous film, as well as several new ones, are written and performed with a great sense of fun. The ending sets up the final chapter in the trilogy in a way that raises the stakes and changes the game significantly. This movie, like the first one, takes the action genre, cuts the brakes, puts a brick on the gas, and launches it off a ramp into the sun.
John Wick still isn’t happy to be back, but we couldn’t be more excited.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) Drinking Game
Do a Double: once you’ve lost track of the body count (again).
Take a Drink: for each new way Wick murders someone.
Do a Shot: for each reappearance of a character from the previous film.
Take a Drink: for any line repeated from the first film.
Chug Your Beer: for the fuckin’ pencil.