The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’

Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. December is John Wick Month, but seeing there is only three movies (as of these reviews) we will have a surprise special movie to end the year on!

The info:

The Movie: “John Wick: Chapter 2”

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane

Director: Chad Stahelski

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89 percent

Our take:

Froemming: Well, we are back for the second installment of John Wick Month with “John Wick: Chapter 2,” a brighter, shinier, balls-out nuttier follow-up to the first movie

This sequel raises even more questions about this weird criminal world Mr. Wick lives in. Though we do realize, based on the scenes, that roughly 35 percent of the population in New York City are guns-for-hire. Buskers, sanitation workers, IT nerds, ect. I now know how Brookly hipsters afford their artisan avocados and craft root-beers and whatnot.

Brown, as I snicker at the large amount of lousy haircuts in this movie, why don’t you give us your first thoughts?

Brown: From the first to the second movie, I feel like Hermes Conrad from “Futurama” describes my mindset perfectly. 

We had our introduction to this world and its token-based economy in the first John Wick movie. And the only question that got answered in the sequel was that, apparently, the Continental Hotel is a franchise? Like, the New York hotel for assassins has its own Euro-Disney?

It’s a good thing the action in these movies is top-notch because I am (REDACTED) lost. 

Froemming, get us started while I try to get my bearings around the idea that a guy giving people a NYC egg, bacon and cheese bodega sandwich is likely an assassin.

Froemming: Well, it picks up shortly after the first movie, with John Wick finally finding out where that punk kid dropped his car off at. He used his uncle’s place. His uncle, Abram Tarasov, has come a long way since stuffing Steve Buscemi into a woodchipper in rural Minnesota decades ago.

Brown: And immediately you know all these people are bad guys. You know why? Neck tattoos. 

Oh Hollywood, please change.

Froemming: I once had a co-worker in Bemidji who wouldn’t take cabs home after a night out. He said cabbies would probably stab him. In Bemidji. I laughed and laughed.

This scene made me think that guy might have had a point. Because these cab drivers are out for blood.

Brown: If Danny DeVito was my taxi boss and he was yelling at me all the time and fed me cocaine cookies, I’d feel stabby, too. 

Froemming: Anyway, we get the breathtaking fight scenes of John Wick going through hired goons to reach the boss, the movie feeling very much like a video game I wished existed, 

Brown: That video game is supposed to exist now. It’s called “Cyberpunk 2077.” It has Keanu Reeves in it. And it’s such a buggy mess that I asked Sony to refund my money. So yeah, stick with the movies, man.

Froemming: My snobby PC-gamer friends say it works just fine on their $3,500+ machines. 

Anywho, Wick fights his way to Abram, who is brother of our villain in the first movie who also keeps calling Wick the BoogerMan. Wick gets to him, they share a drink instead of going to Pancakes House, and they split on peaceful terms. The only time we will ever see such a thing in these movies.

Brown: Considering that this movie strays away from the first movie’s enemies of Russian gangsters, I rather liked this beginning. John Wick gets his sick-ass car back (albeit in literal pieces). Yeah, he doesn’t get his hands on Viggo Tarasov, but for now, John Wick is at peace. 

One thing I couldn’t get over in this opening fight scene is how John Wick gets hit by taxi cabs multiple times and is barely fazed. I don’t care if you’re Johnny Karate, you are not invincible. 

Or, maybe he is and he’s actually a highlander. Nothing would surprise me about these movies anymore.

Froemming: 

John Wick lives his life in God Mode from “Doom.” Or he may be like the Grimace, and we all know…

Good news is he still has that pooch he rescued at the end of the first movie. Bad news, he never named it. He just calls it “dog,” like his pet is a mulleted bounty hunter or something.

Then there is a knock on the door. Fate, destiny, lousy blood oaths have brought Santino D’Antonio to his door with a mission.

Now, a little secret we have here at the JOE-DOWN. Brown and I have the same blood oaths that force the other one to sit through the worst movies imaginable. It is not a perfect system, I can assure you all that.

Brown: I thought we fulfilled that marker when we watched “SLC Punk 2: Punk is Dead.”

Froemming: *quitely points to blood oath in pocket for “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2*

Brown: So for those who remember the first movie, it was mentioned that John Wick got out of the killin’ business after completing an “impossible job.” 

Turns out, Santino D’Antonio helped John Wick with this task. In exchange, John Wick gave Santino a blood oath on a marker that ensures that John Wick will complete a task of Santino’s choosing.

And today, just as John Wick thought he was once again done with this life, he’s pulled back in like Michael Corleone. 

Froemming: All the while he wanted to be an average nobody like Henry Hill.

Brown: Unlike Henry Hill, John Wick remembered the two greatest things in life: Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.

The task: Santino wants John Wick to kill his sister Gianna. Gianna is a part of the High Table, a council of 12 crime bosses. Let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that the mafia does not exist (looks around nervously, loosens neck tie). 

Froemming: Exactly. This waste management employee tells us so!

Brown: John says no to fulfilling the marker. He wants to be done with this shit. 

However, there are (apparently?) two rules in the assassin underground:

  • Don’t conduct business at the Continental. 
  • Markers must be honored.

… I feel like there should be some more rules. I’ll even take suggestions. 

Froemming: This will not be the last time I post this about my confusion about the rules in these movies.

For refusing the marker, these hired goons burn his house to the ground. For a moment, I had a panic attack about his dog. Thankfully the pooch survived.

Brown: Oh, I was freaking the (REDACTED) out about the dog. Watching the Mustang get wrecked was bad enough (I’m not a car guy but I love ‘60s Mustangs). I was going to shut the movie off if we found out John Wick’s new pup was burned alive.

Froemming: Wick and his pooch walk from wherever the hell he lives in New Jersey to downtown Manhattan to the Continental Hotel, where he has a chat with Winston.

I (REDACTED) love Ian McShane. Just for the hell of it, here is a clip of some of his best moments in “Deadwood.”

Wick learns some harsh truths from Winston, such as he has to honor the marker this chucklehead presented him before burning down his house. But, once he kills the guy’s sister for him, he can pretty much do whatever the (REDACTED) he wants to the guy, as the marker has been honored.

Brown: The moment that Santino’s hired goons destroyed John Wick’s home, this is all that ran through my head: 

But, John knows how this world works and he reluctantly accepts Santino’s marker. So, he’s off to Europe. But first, he has to do something about his dog. He leaves the pooch in the capable hands of Lance Reddick, who wishes he were Lavar Burton.

I also like that as John Wick accepts the marker, his transformation is to (checks notes) put on a black turtleneck like Mr. Zender, my high-school acting teacher? 

Dude literally wore Archer’s tactical turtleneck. The tactle-neck. 

Froemming: Wick heads to Rome, where we get further confusion on how much these magical coins are worth because we see one pays for a couple of drinks, and two or three can buy one enough firepower to take over a third-world country.

Brown: Are these coins actual, physical Bitcoins? That’s the only explanation.

Froemming: At the Euro-Continental, the manager Julius is played by Franco Nero — the original Django! I have a lot of useless information.

We then get a shopping montage that is basically like the one in “Pretty Woman,” only for sociopaths. Wick buys guns, knives, special armor for his newly bought tailored suits and a map of the place he can find Gianna and the catacombs he will need to navigate to get to her. Like a video game.

GIVE US A JOHN WICK VIDEO GAME ALREADY!

Brown: What fascinated me was that while John is navigating these catacombs, there is this bizarre-ass band playing a rave at the Colosseum? 

Froemming: Dirty (REDACTED) hipster trash.

Brown: I would have also accepted Eurotrash.

At one point, one of the band members starts playing guitar with a violin bow. I was waiting for this guitarist to use an actual violin like he was Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap. 

Eventually, John confronts Gianna in her dressing room and she knows her time has come. So she gives a monologue before slitting her wrist and sitting in a bath. 

Now, I thought the movie was gonna pull some bullshit where, because Gianna killed herself, the marker wasn’t fulfilled and that would be the conflict when John got back. 

Instead, John Wick shoots her in the head and the marker is fulfilled. Nice touch, movie.

Froemming: Well, yeah. Only now Santino is pulling an old Mac and playing both sides to weasel out of the blame for this.

Wick also has to worry about Cassian, Gianna’s right-hand man who is now out of a job because of this son-of-a-bitch up and killed his boss. So, Wick’s escape from this Eurotrash Rave is going to be tricky.

Brown: Is it, though? I mean, John Wick gets on the stage and kills a man, and the (REDACTED) crowd cheers a cold-blooded murder. Concertgoers have cheered a lot of weird things, like Ozzy biting the head off a bat. But cheering real murder and not some Alice Cooper act is… upsetting.

Froemming: 

Anyway, John Wick puts in the God Mode cheat when he escapes Cassian and finds Ruby Rose and her hired goons in the catacombs and we get more exciting action of Wick brutally murdering people to death. And I cheered it like the stoned audience at that rave you were talking about.

He escapes, only to get hit by a car driven by Cassian and, honestly, I chuckled because these two fighting was a mix of the fight from “They Live” and when George Bluth Sr. fights his twin brother Oscar in “Arrested Development.” It is epic and they seem to know what the other is about to do when they attack. 

Brown: There’s one point where they are tumbling down the stairs for an extended period of time like they’re Ace Ventura’s Slinky

John Wick and Cassian’s fight ends abruptly when they crash through the window at the Euro-Continental. The fight has to end. Like a church in “Highlander,” the Continental is (apparently) holy ground. 

Over drinks, John Wick explains why he had to kill Gianna because of the marker and Santino. Cassian, he vows to kill John Wick, but do it quickly as a professional courtesy. 

This underworld dynamic is so (REDACTED) weird.

Froemming: In his room, John gets a call from Santino trying to BS his way out of being murdered to death because he has made a huge mistake. Wick hangs up on him and tells the hotel he is checking out. A callow Santino then puts a $7 million contract out on Wick.

And here we find out the people who do all the bookkeeping for this empire are a bunch of dirty hipsters. Also, for a world-wide criminal underworld, they have a lot of paperwork to trace all this. 

Brown: We should mention that because of Gianna’s death, apparently it leaves a power vacuum in New York, which Santino hopes to lord over now that he gets Gianna’s seat at the High Table. 

In other words, Santino is looking for…

Froemming: Unfortunately for Santino, he is the Fredo of this crime family. 

Wick gets to New York somehow, and we see 30 percent of the citizens here are hired guns who make their living assassinating people for money. John takes out a guy who looks like a sumo wrestler, a busker playing violin, a bunch of other folks who have come out of the woodwork to get that $7 million bounty. 

Brown: A bounty, mind you, that runs on an underground that uses ‘50s era landline operators, the tubes your bank uses at the drive-thru and dated computer technology like they use in the “Fallout” video games. How the (REDACTED) does any of this ACTUALLY work?!

Froemming: Another question: Why is nobody bothered by all this gunfire and murder in full view of the public? 

Brown: This world’s indifference to violence is how a Republican thinks major cities operate amid the violence. If a right-wing director made this movie, it would take place in Chicago.

While this whole assassin sequence goes on, as cool as it is, I was bothered by both Froemming’s concern about the lack of panic AND John Wick’s suit jacket making him invincible?

I know we got a scene where he gets bulletproof lining in his coat but (REDACTED) you, movie. 

Also, let’s take a moment to soak in that John Wick made a pencil murder SO MUCH MORE UNSETTLING than the Joker did in “The Dark Knight.”

Froemming: Well, part of the legend we hear about Wick is the time he killed three men in a bar with a pencil. Here he takes out two and it is pretty gruesome.

Brown: It’s downright grizzly.

Froemming: 

And we have him and Cassian, shooting wantonly into a fountain, at one another in public nearly hitting citizens, and on a subway car. 

Brown: To put it simply, when the $7 million contract is put on John Wick, this movie becomes “The Warriors,” and John Wick is ALL the Warriors.

All we need is Cassian to put a bunch of glass bottles on his fingers and ask John Wick to come out to play-ay. 

Froemming: Well, I liked the fight on the subway car and him shoving a knife into Cassian’s heart, and if he pulls it out he will bleed out. A very odd professional courtesy. 

Brown: When John Wick and Cassian pulled out their knives on the subway, were you like me and getting flashbacks to the “Beat It” music video?

Froemming: The song did start playing in my head. 

Wick, bleeding and being chased by more hired goons takes refuge with a bum. Whom are another criminal enterprise that raises the question:

He passes out under a tarp and the bum shoots two hired goons who were chasing him.

Wick wakes up bandaged in a makeshift hospital in the underworld lair of the Bums. He wants to talk to their leader and is led to a roof full of pigeons.

Here, Neo finally meets Morpheus, who will guide him to be the Chosen One and wake the world from the Matri….

Shit, wrong movie.

He meets The Bowery King, who looks suspiciously like Cowboy Curtis from “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” the leader of the Hobo Criminal Empire.

Brown: Apparently messages are sent via carrier pigeon in this world. So we have old-school operators, bank tube technology, ‘50s computers and carrier pigeons… in a world where cell phones exist. 

What the (REDACTED) is this world?!

I rather liked Laurence Fishburne being here, if only because he’s really overacting as The Bowery King. Then again, a role like The Bowery King isn’t made for subtlety. 

Froemming: Oh he is hamming it up in this role. I love it. Wick asks for his help as he can help him prevent Santino expanding on his turf and prevent a war if they took Santino out. Just give the man a (REDACTED) gun.

They do. With only seven bullets, one for each million on Wick’s head. And he gives John a heads up that Santino is at the museum, because this guy is a nerd and the Fredo of his family.

Brown: When your own livelihood is on the line, why is The Bowery King giving a world-class assassin just seven bullets to take out a personal army? 

When John Wick storms a museum where Santino and his crew is at, he takes entirely too long to realize “Oh yeah, these guys have guns. I can just use their guns.” 

It’s like Keanu and the movie makers decided they had to make this a point in “John Wick.”

Also, is it just me, or is every hired goon that is employed by Santino look exactly like Dan Bilzerian

It comes to a point where I’m reminded that I don’t get art when John Wick ends up in a hall of mirrors that acts as an art exhibit? I don’t (REDACTED) know.

Froemming: Basically me with art:

This scene of Wick and the hired goons in the hall of mirrors was a nice nod to “Enter the Dragon,” where Bruce Lee fights Han in a similar fashion

Here, in this neon nightmare hall of mirrors somebody probably got a government grant to make, which ticks both me and Ron Swanson off, Wick takes out the hired goons and Ares as Santino runs to the Continental to pull a Karen on Winston and demand Wick’s privileges there be removed.

Winston is not having any of that. He basically tells this chucklehead he brought all this upon himself. Also, the hotel doesn’t answer to the Table of 12 or whatever? I guess Winston is an independent contractor in this world. Maybe he should have taken a cue from the independent contractor from “Clerks” and not go into business with criminals

But while he is in the hotel, Santino is safe. Supposedly. Because when John comes in and just shoots this guy in the face, it is like the G.I. Joe episode of “Community” when Jeff Winger actually shoots the Cobra enemies and kills Destro.

Brown: In a hotel inhabited by assassins, how was John Wick able to walk out of the Continental unscathed? Hell, he’s able to walk out with his (REDACTED) nameless dog. Lance Reddick punched a hole into Eric Andre’s desk and he doesn’t so much as raise his voice at John Wick?

Froemming: You saw what he did with the pencil earlier, right? I have a feeling they know better than to mess with him.

Brown: Why not firing squad John Wick like they did to Ms. Perkins in the first movie? Everyone in these movies goes one at a time at John Wick like they’re in the Putty Patrol in “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.”

Froemming: Because shut the (REDACTED) up, that’s why.

John goes to his burned down house, where he sits in the rubble and Lance Reddick asks him to meet with Winston. He is informed at this meeting his privileges are revoked and he is excommunicado from the hotel, which is also part of the assassins? 

I ask again:

So Winston has as much power as the top 12? 

Brown: I’ve never seen a hotel magnate with this much power and influence, and I include Trump in that statement. 

Froemming: Anyway, Winston gives John an hour headstart before these assassins start blasting at him like they are Frank Reynolds

I do like as he is running through New York, now he has a doubled bounty on his head, everyone looks suspicious. From a woman with a baby carriage to one of the bums we saw earlier, it looks like the world is out for John Wick. Will he survive?

Yes. Because we have a third movie to watch. Brown, let’s drive our trashed cars down to recommendations! 

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

Froemming: Oh yeah, the movie just doubles down on the insanity of the first one. 

Brown: Yes. I like the first movie better, but this one was still a lot of nonsensical fun.

Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down:

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