John Wick: Chapter 2, by Albert W. Vogt III

The only reason I decided to watch John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) is because I imagine there will be a day in the not-too-distant future when I will be sitting down in the theater viewing John Wick: Chapter 4.  Yes, I realize there is a gap.  The missing one is John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019).  I know I went to the theaters for that one, and I could tell you with whom I was there for it.  I even went back and read my review of it from that time.  Parenthetically, boy did I write differently then.  At any rate, my thoughts on John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum as preserved on The Legionnaire did nothing to jog my memory, as they say.  Mercifully, my brain seems to have spared me any meaningful recollections of it.  Not that it matters.  If there is one thing I can recall about all three, and John Wick: Chapter 2 is no exception, is that it is going to action set piece after action set piece until whatever is motivating the title character (Keanu Reeves) to spill buckets of blood and/or is made unalive.

In scrolling through my rolodex of memories from John Wick (2014), I do not recall him getting as bent out of shape about his car.  Well, here goes the one-man army in John Wick: Chapter 2 killing everyone in sight because the villain’s brother from the last movie, Abram Tarasov (Peter Stomare), has his vehicle.  The stuff about the last movie has little bearing on these events because, after leaving Abram alive, he returns to the home he once shared with his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan).  His intent is to get back to retirement from the complex world of contract killing around which these movies revolve.  But then he had to go and open the door to Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio).  Here we are told about some new back story of John’s that is needed to move the plot forward.  In other words, the McGuffin.  This is a “marker,” which is a physical representation of a blood oath made by John to Santino at some point in the unseen past.  We are told that this is how John left his bloody business behind the first time.  Now Santino needs a favor, but John wants no part of it.  He also warns Santino that he should not use it.  The aspiring criminal agrees, everyone goes home, and the movies ends. . . .  *Sigh*, if only.  Santino does not take no for an answer and decides to burn down John’s house.  I guess Santino did not watch the first movie.  At any rate, this brings John back to the world he has been trying to leave behind, and he agrees to help Santino on the condition that John be released from the oath after completion of this task. Santino accepts.  What Santino needs John for is to kill Santino’s sister, Gianna D’Antonio (Claudia Gerini), who has wrongfully taken their father’s place at “The Table,” whatever that means.  At first, John scoffs, saying it is an impossible task, which is hilarious because he is going to show up and punch, shoot, and/or stab everyone to death anyway.  Anyway, Gianna is in Rome, and it is to Rome John goes.  Of course, there is an Italian version of all the secret stuff contract killers like him have access to in the United States, just with accents.  Hence, he gathers up a bunch of guns and knives and heads to where she is going to be.  Before we get to the nonsense we all anticipate, we are, er, treated to one of the quieter, if more awful deaths as Gianna gets into the tub and slits her wrists.  John puts a bullet in her skull for good measure.  Now, he had gotten into her inner sanctum without alerting anyone.  Yet, we could not have him leave equally unnoticed, could we?  Cue action sequence 5, 573!  At the end of the trail of corpses John leaves behind him is Ares (Ruby Rose), Santino’s main henchwoman.  She is there to kill John because what kind of brother would Santino be if he did not avenge his sister?  Behold, John Wick logic!  Again, more punching, and shooting, and stabbing.  Finally, John makes it back to the neutral ground that is the Continental Hotel where nobody is allowed to kill anyone.  Because Santino is who he is, he decides to taunt John.  Santino realizes his mistake almost as soon as the words are out of his mouth as he puts an open contract worth $7 million on John’s head.  This means that as soon as he returns to New York City, every assassin in the area going after him.  When this begins to prove to be too much even for the infamous John Wick, he seeks shelter with a group of homeless people led by an underground crime boss known as the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne).  For whatever reason, the Bowery King is tickled by John’s intent to kill such a high-ranking guy and gives the assassin a gun with seven bullets, which is next to useless, but more importantly, safe passage to Santino’s location.  Once there, yet again, we get more action schlock.  Ultimately, Santino gets away, fleeing to the safety of the Continental Hotel in New York.  John follows him there and, regardless of the rules governing personal conduct, kills Santino in front of everyone.  In response, the manager of the hotel, Winston Scott (Ian McShane), revokes any privileges the assassin might have enjoyed.  The last scenes are of Winston making John an “excommunicado,” and alerting all the assassins once more to come take a crack at the mighty John Wick.  With this, our hero runs off into the evening and the next chapter.

The term “excommunicado” at the end of John Wick: Chapter 2 brings up an issue I raised with its predecessor.  It speaks to a latent Catholic-ness, if you will, to the proceedings.  It is a little more overt in this second one, and thus that much more annoying.  What it seems to amount to here is the sort of conspiracy theories you hear about the Church and its involvement in secret societies and the like.  One of the more famous outgrowths of this are the Knights Templar.  In case you are not familiar with them, they were an order of warrior monks who protected pilgrims to the Holy Land.  Like many religious orders during the Middle Ages, it grew in prosperity to the point that it invited jealous eyes.  Soon, the order’s land and other holdings were confiscated, and many of its members were brutally executed on all manner of charges.  I saw something earlier today on Formed, or the Catholic Netflix as us nerds like to call it, that reminded me that these charges were unfounded.  This connected with me in today’s film because there is a brief moment when you see a Cardinal shaking hands with one of Gianna’s henchmen.  Has the Church been perfect over the years?  Of course not, but I am also here to tell you that it is not plotting some diabolical scheme to take over the world.  Yet, frustratingly, movies like this one keep feeding these stereotypes.

I have heard rumors that John Wick: Chapter 4 is not going to be the last.  *Sigh*  I wish they could just let John alone and move on to something else.  Why not take up basket weaving?  Oh well.  At least by watching John Wick: Chapter 2 I can see the last one with some sense of understanding for the sake of this blog.

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