If you're just joining us now be sure to catch up with our review of John Wick before diving into this review of John Wick: Chapter 2!
Three years after the original John Wick film, director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad combine their super powers yet again for what stunned me as an awesome sequel! I had actually never seen the second film before so I was pretty excited to check it out after my rewatch of the first. Needless to say, I was once again enthralled by the world that Kolstad has created and how Stahelski let's Keanu Reeves absolutely cook.
John Wick: Chapter 2 takes place shortly after the events of the first film with John taking his beloved car back from Viggo's brother Abram (Peter Stormare). After blasting his way out of the chop shop, Wick and Abram agree to maintain peace as John is desperately trying to leave this life behind. Cementing all of his wares in his basement again, his second retirement is just as short lived as the first with Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) showing up and invoking a marker, a blood oath, in which John owes him a favor. After initially refusing Santino blows up John's house, his new dog survives by the way (THANK GOD), and thus John is thrust back into the world of hired assassins to fully pay back his debts and move on.
Looking at the basic synopsis like that I was definitely doubting the quality of the film. Originally I believed this would be too cookie cutter of the first. A mere copy trying to capture lightning in a bottle once more, without any additional flare or new content to push the narrative further.
Holy shit I was so wrong.
As I had previously mentioned in the first review, Kolstad's writing of subtle nods to the underground world of assassins that John had been a part of kept the door wide open for countless storylines to be explored. The marker being invoked was a great way to open that door and push the viewer through it head first. Not only do we see a glimpse of the international scale of this society, as John travels to Rome, but also more of the nomenclature and rules by which everyone abides by. Of course no business conducted on Continental grounds, and all markers must be honored. While the marker may have been shoehorned in a little bit it pays off wonderfully to kick off the first half of the film.
In my mind John Wick: Chapter 2 is a film of two halves. The first being John's fulfillment of the marker and the continued world building. Going to the Roman Continental and meeting with the sommelier (Peter Serafinowicz), the tailor (Luca Mosca), and the seamstress (Midori Nakamura) are all pretty cool and intricate moments showcasing the "hidden in plain sight" world. Not to mention while putting in his "orders," Wick showcases some fun tongue-in-cheek moments that add a little humor to the hyper-serious nature of the film. Requesting various weapons from the sommelier through references to wine was hilarious and the litany of questions from the tailor for suit designs being veiled descriptions of "activities" was also great. On the flip side of this humor, the action is equally as appreciated. We get another loud, thumping musical action sequence that may be slightly weaker than the first film's in The Red Circle, but still a solid entry. But the real bread winner is the catacombs shootout. Here we have some really really cool work from Stahelski with camera shots lingering just long enough to deliver some wow factor action.
But, the second half of the film is where I believe this sequel really separates itself from the first. The latter half is defined by John Wick having a new contract placed on him and his journey to find and kill Santino.
The action is tighter, the choreography is more intense, and everything is elevated to a higher level of quality compared to the first its honestly remarkable. John Wick facing off against Cassian (Common) on the New York subway is a great claustrophobic action sequence. I would also be remiss to not mention the fight scene between the two in the first half of the film which is some of the best orchestrated action on screen! Going toe to toe with Ares (Ruby Rose) in the weird hall of mirrors exhibit is another really neat piece of work from Stahelski who is continually finding ways to add more unique craft to these fight scenes.
While the first film ended with what appeared to be no intent of making sequels, John Wick: Chapter 2 clearly ends with the purpose of going further. With John Wick killing Santino in the Continental he has become excommunicated from the hotel and all of its offerings. Prior world building and services that have been hinted at and explored in the first film and this one are now completely cut off from Wick. I mean, he literally runs off into the sunset as the cloud of danger closes in around him. Setting up what I can only anticipate as the best one of these films so far!
Next one up in my Elysian IPA Pack! What better way to follow up the Hazy '96 than with the Full Contact Imperial IPA!
With higher stakes, more intense action, and some really slick work from Stahelski I needed to up the ante with my brew. Increasing from a 6.1% ABV in the Hazy '96 to the 8.8% in the Full Contact this is a much boozier tasting beverage but is certainly not overpowering. Presenting a slightly less hazy appearance but with much more peach taste/aroma present upon pour and first sip. The Full Contact is also a very smooth drink, almost too smooth for an 8.8% beer!
There's a nice bitterness that you come to desire from an IPA that comes around the backend of a drink, lending a nice balance to the tropical peachy sweetness.
If there was a 2000's themed beer in this pack I would definitely have paired it with this film in honor of Common's great performance, and outrageously underrated albums of the 2000's. "Like Water for Chocolate", "Be", and "Finding Forever" are all 100% bangers with no skips and we need to be celebrating them as such!
But I will say the Full Contact is a solid pairing option, going punch for punch with John Wick and all his foes through its boozy tropical swings. We're now halfway through this variety pack and halfway through the films, but something tells me the real excitement is just getting started.