Review – The Boogeyman is Back (“John Wick: Chapter Two”)

They killed his dog, stole his car, and left him for dead, but he got his revenge in a 2014 wild bloody rampage movie that made Keanu Reeves’ brutal action hero John Wick the newest action hero who just wants to retire and join AARP! Geez, give the guy a break!


*

Yes, hitman John Wick (aka The Boogeyman) was all through after killing the guys responsible for the nefarious acts against him, his puppy, and his car. (mental note: never mess with another man’s car or doggy). So he was done, kaput, finished, completed, one-and-done, right? WRONG! There’s always a sequel! Duh!! So, we pick-up right after chapter one as we see John getting his precious Mustang Boss 429 back from the chop shop, but not without killing a bunch of people who done stole it. Sound’s about right.

But soon things gets down to brass tacks: an old Italian crime lord, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls in a blood oath marker he made with John some years ago. And we learn in the contract killing world there are two rules: you do NOT go back on a blood oath and you do NOT conduct ‘business’ at the Continental Hotel (the exclusive hotel for assassins). John is forced into a contract, and it’s a doozie–kill Santino’s sister, Gianni (Claudia Gerini) in Rome, so Santino can take her place at the “High Table”, the super-powerful council of high-level crime lords. Oh yeah, they torch his house to make a point. These are not nice people.

Reluctantly, John goes to beautiful Italy to kill Gianni, but first checks into the Italian Continental Hotel and get new clothes and new guns (called a “wine tasting”; my favorite scene). John, suited up and armed for WW3, applies his trade at an Italian rave and knocks-off Gianni, but finds it was all a double-cross as Ares (Ruby Rose), Santino’s lethal hearing-impaired hench-woman, leads a squad of hit-men after John. Big mistake! Like a video game gone berserk, John takes them out one-by-one and then flies home to NYC to kill Santino. But Santino decides to hedge his bets and puts out a city-wide contract on John for $7 million!

Like on TV’s Grimm where it seems like every third person is a ‘wesen’, John is faced with contract killers around every corner. He even takes out two of them with just a pencil! A pencil!! The most tenacious of the assassins is Cassian (Common), Gianni’s ex-bodyguard and friend of John. Their knock-down-drag-out-fights are impressive and well filmed. After getting insider info from an old adversary and underground crime lord (Matrix buddy Laurence Fishburne), John tracks down Santino at his art gallery and museum. Yes, another killing spree ensues, but Santino escapes to the sanctuary of the Continental Hotel.

Will John Wick fulfill his own contract and kill Santino on the hallowed grounds of the Continental? Will his bounty be doubled and send him and his new dog on the run? Will there be a Chapter Three? Gee, what do YOU think? This is one of the rare cases where a sequel is as good as it’s predecessor and you have the creative team to thank for that; the same director and writer from the first movie. Derek Kolstad wrote this screenplay with his penchant for a cavalcade of bullets, blood, and mayhem.

At just over 2hrs, it does get a little long, what with the constant peril that John must get out of, and Santino’s villain is way to boring to be menacing or a threat. But thankfully, the action and story moves along well, and while the story isn’t anything new, like John Woo’s early works (A Better Tomorrow, Bullet in the Head), it’s not in the plot, it’s the execution.

And execution they got with director Chad Stahelski, who loves to play with the camera as he did with the first movie. Not content with resting on his ‘first Wick movie’ laurels, he ups his own game with even more dazzling shoot-’em-up’s and fights. Inside spooky Italian catacombs, outside an Italian rave party, all over the streets of NYC, and pulling off a complicated hat-trick with a mirrored room sequence. And, of course, you got Reeves as the intense, smouldering John Wick who you do NOT want to cross. EVER! Coming back is also the Continental’s enjoyable Lance Reddick as the hotel’s proficient concierge and Ian McShane as Winston, who is more than just the hotel manager.

Unforgiven (1992)


*

What’s a retired cold-blooded killer with a family to do when his reputation is called back to do “one-last job as a matter of honor”? That’s the case of this brutally honest and thought-provoking shoot-’em-up by the master of Westerns, Clint Eastwood.

It’s the 1880’s in Wyoming and William Munny (Eastwood) used to be that nasty killer and bandit, but swore of it since he got married and had kids. But it’s been years and his reputation follows him no matter where he goes. A young braggart kid, calling himself the Scofield Kid (Jamiz Woolvelt) visits Munny seeking his help to kill some cowboys who horribly disfigured a prostitute Delilah Fitzgerald (Anna Levine) in the town of Big Whiskey. The prostitutes there put up a bounty of $1000 y’see, and Munny, who  initially refuses to help, finally accepts since his farm is failing and he needs the money.

Munny recruits his old retired gunfighter friend, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to help. Meanwhile, Britain-born gunfighter English Bob (Richard Harris), arrives to collect the bounty and meets the egotistical and savage sheriff, “Little” Bill Daggett (Gene Hackman). Little Bill and his deputies disarm Bob, and beat him savagely, hoping to discourage other would-be assassins. All this recorded by Bob’s traveling companion, biographer and writer, W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek) who decides to stay and write about Bill, who has impressed him with his tales of old gunfights.

Soon Munny, Logan, and the Kid arrive later during a rain storm, but Munny is sitting alone in the saloon when Little Bill and his deputies arrive and beat him half-to death. Recovered three days later, the guys ambush and kill the cowboys, but it sours Logan so he decides to return home. But as Munny and the Kid go to collect the bounty, Little Bill grabs and tortures Logan to death. The Kid heads back to Kansas to deliver the reward money to Munny’s children and Logan’s wife, while an outraged Munny returns to town to take revenge on Little Bill in a wild killing spree.

David Webb Peoples (12 Monkeys, Blade Runner) knows how to write a script (it was nominated for Best Screenplay) and this was one of his best. A carefully constructed and ghastly look at the way the old West might have looked like without all the glamour and glitz. You can practically smell the hay and cow patties while watching the movie with Eastwood’s signature direction and style that he’s honed throughout the decades.

This ain’t no Silverado or A Million Ways To Die In The West, but a bare-bones, gritty, and raw Western that hammers the point of killers and assassins-for-hire and what it means to kill someone in real time. Not just those ‘screen deaths’ where the bad guy just shoots a bunch a people and that’s that, but the emotional gut feeling of one pulling the trigger. Eastwood is at his grizzly best, along with Freeman, Hackman, and Harris; the vet’s of the screen. Woolvett is okay, but can’t match the intensity of panache of the others, sad to say, and is miscast. Still, it’s a great Western right up there with newer versions of The Magnificent Seven and True Grit.

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