Tag Archives: John Wick

Thoughts on: John Wick Chapter 2 (2017)

John-Wick-Chapter-Two-2017-movie-poster

Unless we’re talking about Star Wars, it is very rare for a sequel to surpass the original, but I think John Wick Chapter 2 qualifies. Picking up four days after the conclusion of the first movie, Chapter 2 takes us through the continuing trials of would-like-to-remain-retired hitman John Wick. His vengeance completed, John is perfectly content to return to retired life with his new dog that he rescued in the previous film. However…fate seems to be out to get him as he is dropped in on by Santino D’Antonio, an Italian gangster to whom John owes a huge favor. See, it so happens that in the course of fulfilling his “impossible task” for Victor, Santino provided some invaluable service to make it possible. And as a result, John gave Santino what is known in the underworld as a “marker.”

2017_JohnWick21_Press_150217

Basically, if you grant someone a marker, you’re saying that at some time in the future you are binding yourself to do whatever task that person asks of you, no exceptions. And also no getting out of it either: even though John begs Santino to not call the marker in, the Italian persists, and when John still refuses? He blows John’s gorgeous house up (the puppy lives!!!) and Winston firmly reminds John that he can’t ignore this. This is the other inviolable rule of the underworld: all markers MUST be honored. If you refuse, you die. If you attempt to run, you die and if you kill the person holding the marker, you most definitely die.

So what does Santino want done so badly that he blew up John’s house? Oh nothing much, he just wants his sister murdered so he can take her place at “The High Table” (the gathering of all the criminal heads of the underworld). If John does this, Santino swears that will fulfill the marker. What he doesn’t mention, however, is that once his sister is dead (she actually commits suicide and John shoots her afterward to technically fulfill his contract) Santino wants John dead as well to get rid of any “loose ends.” I really loved this entire sequence set in Rome. The whole set up of John checking into the city’s Continental hotel and then acquiring everything he needs for the hit and talking about it in the most civilized terms.

img07

For example, John asks the hotel clerk if he can see the sommelier (which ordinarily refers to a wine specialist). But in the Continental, the “sommelier” is an expert on all kinds of weapons. So, John and the sommelier discuss what guns (and other weapons) he will need in the exact same terms one talks about fine wines (appetizer, main course, dessert, etc.). He also visits a tailor (for a bulletproof suit that would be the envy of James Bond) and other establishments, always paying in those same gold coins from the previous film. It’s a fascinating sequence because it reveals this whole world that’s hiding in plain sight (and as I said before, I love those kinds of stories).

Once John escapes the hit squad sent after him, Santino (being rather stupid) has a hit put out on John, a $7 million hit to be precise. And here is the most fascinating sequence of all: we get to see HOW this is accomplished. If someone wants a hit put out, they call “Accounts Receivable” where all these ladies are working old-fashioned switchboards and typewriters (I’m not sure if its for aesthetic reasons or what, but all their technology is old-fashioned) and there are files on everyone in the underworld. So once they give a code to verify who they are, they name the target, how much the hit is worth, is it international, open or closed (if it’s open that means anyone can claim it) and when does it take effect. And once all of this is filled out, there’s a sequence where we see a computer auto-dialing all of these numbers with the relevant information.

JW2_D33_9548.cr2

And what’s even more mind-blowing? The revelation that there are assassins EVERYWHERE, in all kinds of professions. Since very few people could resist a $7 million bounty (and the chance to take out John Wick), the hit man has a big problem on his hands as, once he returns to New York City, just about everyone he encounters is out to get him. This leads to another montage of John fighting assassin after assassin (and getting more injured all the time). Thoroughly frustrated, John makes his way to the “Bowery King”, another underworld figure with a huge organization (most of his force consists of those homeless people you see on the street corners in NYC). John convinces the Bowery King to help him get to Santino when he reminds him that if Santino comes to power he intends to take over New York City completely, there won’t be any room for the Bowery King or anyone else.

The last part of the film is where things get a little crazy: after pursuing Santino through an art exhibit (and killing dozens of Santino’s guards along the way), he corners the gangster in the Continental where, it turns out, Santino is planning to live permanently (which would make him untouchable). Winston, seeing how angry John really is, attempts to talk him down from doing anything stupid but at this point, John doesn’t care about the consequences, so before anyone can stop him….BANG! Santino is dead. Inside the Continental. John has broken the number one rule of the underworld: you NEVER conduct business inside the Continental.

By rights John should be executed (and I think he knows it) but Winston can’t quite bring himself to give the order. So, he has John meet him in a park and lets him know the following:

  1. The bounty on his head will be doubled (that’s $14 million)
  2. It is now an international hit (anyone in the world can come after him)
  3. He is excommunicado meaning he has lost all rights and privileges to all services in the Underworld. No more Continental, secret shops, NOTHING.

However, to give John a fighting chance, Winston also adds that the new hit won’t go active for an hour, he has that long to make himself scarce. And then comes a scene that chilled me to the bone: when John asks Winston why he isn’t already dead, Winston signals to one of his guards who says “Now” into a phone. At that moment, everyone around the fountain in the park stops and looks at John, revealing (I think) that he’s been surrounded by assassins this entire time. As the hour starts, John walks away with his dog while we hear Winston placing the order with Accounts Receivable. As John continues to move through the park, phones begin to ring around him. But as we don’t see the messages being received, there’s no way for us (the audience) to know if these are assassins receiving the information or simply regular people going about their lives. John doesn’t know either, and in his paranoia, he takes off running, his dog jogging beside him. And that’s where the story ends!!

Of course, since a third film has already been announced, it’s obvious that John will get away in the short term (not to mention he’s promised to kill anyone who comes after him), but so many questions remain. For one, where will all of this end? Part of me suspects that this is going to end with John dead and therefore finally reuniting with his wife. But there’s something else in play: Winston gave John a marker in the park. Does this mean Winston owes John a favor now? There are so many questions, but we won’t get any answers until 2019.

And there’s my thoughts on John Wick: Chapter 2. It’s such a great film, I really wish I’d gone to see it in theaters (I definitely won’t miss the third installment).

See also:

Thoughts on: John Wick (2014)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

Advertisements

Thoughts on: John Wick (2014)

movieposter

Well everyone, I have to say you were right. John Wick IS an awesome film and one that I should have seen long before now. It’s not that I didn’t want to see John Wick (or the sequel, which I also watched over the weekend), it’s just that I was buried so deep in paper writing and research three years ago that I simply didn’t have time to go watch much of anything. So, when Black Friday rolled around and the two John Wick films were on sale, I decided to take the plunge and buy them both (having been assured by many people that it was absolutely worth it).

And the very first impression from this film? (This will surprise nobody): That poor puppy!!

Even though I knew going in that this part was coming, I still almost couldn’t go through with it when John received the puppy as a final gift from his recently deceased wife. I absolutely adore animals, and every time that puppy looked up at John, my heart just melted (to the point where I had to hold my own pet close just to get through what came next). Mercifully, the final scene with the puppy was kept short or I’m not sure I could’ve kept going. But I’m getting ahead of myself: for those who may not know, the film starts with a battered John falling out of a shot-up car by a waterfront before jumping back a few days to the day of his wife’s funeral. In a series of flashbacks, we see John reminiscing over anniversary celebrations, dates, ending with his beloved collapsing on a boardwalk and ultimately dying in the hospital (I suspect an aggressive cancer, but no cause is given as of yet).

JohnWick_152500700_1810080-219613._V331809634_RI_SX940_

The puppy is delivered that evening and a card (from his wife) explains that this is to help him learn to love again and not to be alone. John is adjusting to this new life with Daisy (named after his wife’s favorite flower) when he encounters some Russian gangsters at a gas station. One, Iosef (Alfie Allen, aka Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones) admires John’s car very much and asks how much he will sell it for. John insists it is not for sale and heads home. But that night…Iosef and his friends break into John’s house, assault him and, out of pure spite, kill the puppy. From this point on, the story is a pretty violent roller coaster ride because…it turns out that Iosef has unwittingly pissed off one John Wick, formerly the greatest assassin the criminal underworld had ever seen and (a rather important detail) a former employee of Iosef’s father. Just over five years ago, we learn, John informed his employer that he wished to “get out” of the business as he’d fallen in love. Victor (his employer) informed him that if he wished to leave he would need to complete an impossible task (I believe it was killing all of Victor’s enemies in a single night). That being done, John retired and was left in peace, until now.

This is actually one of my favorite story tropes: dumb criminal pisses off the legendary assassin/fighter/etc. and it’s just a matter of time until he pays with his life. In John’s quest for vengeance, we get introduced to the remarkably civilized underworld, where assassins and other types use strange gold coins as currency, cleaning up the bodies is referred to as “dinner reservations” and there are exclusive hotels for assassins. Indeed, the Continental Hotel in New York City caters to everyone in the Underworld (provided you’re in good standing) but there is one cardinal rule that everyone must follow: no “business” may be conducted on hotel property. That means, even if your target is standing right in front of you in the lobby, you can’t kill them (if you do or if you try anyway, there are severe consequences). I liked this part because it is always interesting to imagine that a secret world exists in plain sight like the one depicted in the film. Access is dependent on the gold coins, no coins, no admittance.

b214ac1f4512273a001b73a6784cba3a

Knowing that John will be coming for his son, Victor puts a $2 million dollar hit out on his former employee. He also specifically goes to Marcus, John’s former mentor and personally asks him to take John out. Marcus says it will be done, but he’s lying. Instead of killing John (which he has several opportunities to do), Marcus is seen watching over John, preventing others from taking him out. This includes stopping a fellow assassin, Ms. Perkins, from killing John inside the hotel (Victor offered double the bounty to anyone willing to break the rules). It takes some time, but Ms. Perkins ultimately pays for this violation (she also killed another assassin inside the hotel after John stopped her) with her life after Winston, the hotel’s owner, revokes her membership.

After destroying a lot of Victor’s assets, John finally convinces him to reveal where his son is hiding out, with the understanding that this will stop all further acts of vengeance. But while John goes to kill Iosef (successfully I might add), Victor corners Marcus for not killing John when he had the chance and after torturing him extensively, shoots him dead in his own home. This prompts John to turn around (literally) and head off for one last showdown. By the time Victor is disposed of, we’ve caught back up to where the story began, with John beat up on the waterfront. He patches himself up in a vet’s clinic, but before he leaves, he saves a puppy that was scheduled to be put down and takes him home (which made my heart melt again).

John-Wick-2014

By the time the credits rolled, I was deeply in love with this movie, not to mention grateful that I’d thought to buy the sequel as well. One of the things I loved in the story is that every time John Wick is mentioned as being part of the scenario, all anyone can think to say in response is “Oh.” Like, just hearing Wick’s name explains everything about the situation (this carries over into the sequel as well). I also liked how the action was almost non-stop once that part of the story got rolling, there are very few moments where you are allowed to catch your breath once the violence starts.

In conclusion: John Wick is an awesome film (with an awesome sequel) and I eagerly await the final installment (due in 2019) that I will definitely be seeing in theaters. Tomorrow I will publish my thoughts on John Wick: Chapter 2. Until then!

See also:

Thoughts on: John Wick Chapter 2 (2017)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂