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From the B-Movie Vault: John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2

March 25, 2023 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
John Wick Keanu Reeves Image Credit: Lionsgate

From the B-Movie Vault Issue #7: John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest From the B-Movie Vault. I’m Bryan Kristopowitz.

Image Credit: Lionsgate

The John Wick franchise has become a real deal action movie juggernaut. The anticipation for the fourth installment, John Wick: Chapter 4 is through the roof and I’d be shocked if the fourth movie’s opening weekend at the box office is nothing short of amazing. People love these movies and the John Wick character played by Keanu Reeves. I know I do, and ever since I saw the first one way back in 2014 I was enthralled and hopeful that we would get a real deal action movie franchise. We certainly got one, didn’t we?

My review for John Wick was paired up with a review of the low budget sci-fi action flick Project: Shadowchaser in The Gratuitous B-Movie Column (issue #331 for those of you keeping score at home). I was in the midst of doing a series of reviews of action flicks from the 1990’s and for no reason beyond needing another movie to review so I could keep up the whole “double feature” idea I had started for that particular month of reviews (I had done reviews for such classics as Albert Pyun’s Nemesis, the Rutger Hauer action horror sci-fi flick Split Second, the Jeff Speakman vehicles The Perfect Weapon and Street Knight, and the epic Brian Bosworth/Lance Henriksen flick Stone Cold as well as the Steve James/Reb Brown movie Street Hunter. They’re all also gone from the internets but will definitely show up again, once I get around to putting them in future issues of this here feature). Looking at my John Wick review I’m surprised by how I really didn’t “get” the movie while also loving it immensely. I do remember being quite tired when first seeing it in the theater and there were details and whatnot that I didn’t pick up on because there are things that I “missed” in the review. I clearly should have waited to review the movie in full when it hit home video as I no doubt would have picked up on all of the bits and pieces I “missed” in the theater. It might be interesting to do a full on, top down re-review of John Wick one of these days.

Maybe. We’ll see.

And now, without any further what have you, the next From the B-Movie Vault is all about the John Wick franchise and my reviews of the modern action classics John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2. Enjoy.


John Wick (2014)

Image Credit: Lionsgate

John Wick, directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, is the kind of action movie that Hollywood doesn’t make enough of. While it isn’t a perfect action movie, John Wick is stylish, fairly simple, and chock full of badass gunplay and martial arts fighting. It also features a fine performance by star Keanu Reeves.

Reeves is John Wick, a retired badass mob assassin who ends up getting back into the hitman business after a chance encounter with some thugs who steal his badass muscle car and kill his new puppy. The thugs, led by Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen), had no idea who they were robbing and attacking, but then Wick, since getting out of the business, has kept a rather low profile. Outside of practicing his high speed driving car combat skills at the airport (a guard lets him go on the runway and drive around), Wick pretty much stays home, mourning his dead wife Helen (played in flashbacks by Bridget Moynahan). After recovering from his beating at the hands of Iosef and his buddies and burying his puppy (a puppy that Helen arranged to have delivered to Wick after her funeral), Wick goes to see Aurelio (John Leguizamo), an old car thief that will know what happened to his muscle car. Aurelio, as expected, knows, but because of his position within the underworld he can’t tell exactly where Iosef took his car. Aurelio can, however, give Wick a new car and some encouragement. Aurelio can’t stand Iosef and won’t cry when Wick takes care of him.

And Wick will take care of him and anyone else that gets in his way. That’s just how John Wick works.

So Wick goes back to his place, digs out his old guns and suit, and decides to get back into the killing business full force. While Wick is doing that, Wick’s old boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), Iosef’s father, tries to figure out what to do. Should he give up Iosef to Wick, a man with a scary reputation (people used to call Wick “The Boogeyman”), or should he stand by his dumbass son and do everything he can to keep Wick away from him? Viggo eventually decides to stick with his son and puts out a two million dollar contract on Wick, a contract that should entice the best of the current crop of killers working in the underworld. The contract killers attack Wick quickly, actually going to his home to try to kill him. However, Wick being Wick, makes short work of the killers and sends a loud and clear message to the underworld: I want Iosef. Don’t screw with me.

So then some stuff happens, Viggo calls up his old pal and master assassin Marcus (Willem Dafoe), and Wick goes to the Continental, a hotel made specifically for the underworld, a place that acts as a kind of neutral ground for organized crime figures. As hotel owner Winston (Ian McShane) makes clear, “business is not to be conducted” at the Continental. It is meant to be neutral ground, a place to relax and interact. You want to kill someone? Go outside. Wick, while adhering to the “no killing” policy, does ask around about Iosef. This information gathering, together with the knowledge of the $2 million contract, sets off Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), a well-known female assassin who really wants the big money. So Perkins attacks Wick and tries to kill him, but Wick being Wick manages to hold off Perkins and continue his revenge quest. He’s going to find Iosef and his buddies and he is going to kill them.

It’s fun watching Reeves as Wick mow through seemingly endless henchmen , shooting most of them in the face and head as he goes after Iosef. Wick is also quite good with his hands and feet, breaking limbs with abandon. That kind of thing is always cool in this kind of movie. It’s also neat how the underworld has its own rules, its own infrastructure, and that just about everyone involved in the business is interested in upholding those rules and infrastructure. How does one accumulate those gold coins that one needs to access special areas around the city, including the Continental? And how many people have them?

The movie also has an appropriately glum look about it, which is always nice to see as too many big budget action movies look too nice and clean. Even the Continental, which has a swanky night club in it full of beautiful people, isn’t all that attractive. It’s a relatively nice place, sure, but it isn’t as opulent as you would expect it to be. The pacing is a little sluggish at first, but once Wick is attacked by Iosef and his scumbag buddies the movie kicks it into high gear and never slows down. Most of the action scenes are sleek and exciting. I’m a little surprised that there isn’t much blood in the movie, especially with all of the head shots delivered to the bad guys, but then massive blood sprays probably would have been too distracting in the overall scheme of things.

The movie does have a few issues. The flick’s main villain, Viggo, isn’t as bad and nasty as he should be. Now, that wouldn’t be a problem if Viggo had an insane henchman to make up for Viggo’s overall lack of nastiness, but then he doesn’t have one of those, either. And Iosef, even when he’s hanging out with his buddies, comes off as an arrogant prick and not a bloodthirsty killer. Where’s the challenge for Wick? The movie is also missing a major set piece of some sort, some spectacular fight or gun battle that is so ridiculous that you can’t help but remember it. There are plenty of cool gun battles, yes, but the movie needs at least one really big one to be perfect. And the final fight between Wick and Viggo isn’t as epic as it should be. Again, had Viggo had a nasty henchman to do his dirty work for him the movie probably would have had the final spectacle it needs. The lack of that spectacle doesn’t kill the movie, but it is something you’re likely to notice once the movie is over. That’s what happened to me about twenty minutes after I left the theatre. On top of that, the movie has the great Daniel Bernhardt in it as Viggo’s main henchman Kirill. You would think that having Bernhardt, a real deal martial artist and a The Matrix franchise alumnus would mean that he gets to be the main scary henchman and that he would eventually have a glorious, knock down drag out brawl with Wick. I mean, why have Bernhardt in the movie otherwise? Bernhardt’s Kirill does fight Wick a few times but the fights are not all that memorable. That’s a deficit as far as I’m concerned.

Reeves is simply iconic as Wick. Wick is coolest and most interesting when he’s in his suit and carrying a gun, but Reeves manages to make the “retired” Wick interesting, too. What does that guy really do all day? Reeves makes you want to know. Dafoe does his usual great job as Marcus, Wick’s old pal and one of Viggo’s best assassins. Dafoe and Reeves have a great “master and apprentice” type relationship that will hopefully be expanded upon in sequels (that is if we get a sequel. And, yes, I’m well aware of what happens to Dafoe in the movie, but that fact shouldn’t keep him from appearing in flashbacks).

Pretty much everyone else in the cast plays a bit part (well, besides Allen and Nyqvist). Dean Winters is funny as Viggo’s secretary Avi. The man knows how to play the weasel. Bridget Moynahan is sweet in the few small scenes she has a Wick’s wife Helen. She has great chemistry with Reeves (I wouldn’t have minded seeing more one-on-one scenes with Reeves and Moynahan in future sequels, extended flashbacks and whatnot). And John Leguizamo is awesome in his extended cameo as Aurelio the car guy. He will definitely show up in a sequel. And Ian McShane is smooth as Winston, the head of the Continental. What does he do all day?

And then there’s the great Lance Reddick as the Continental desk manager Charon. After this role I think more movies should seek Reddick out for comic relief parts. He has damn good timing.

And then there’s Adrianne Palicki as Perkins the female assassin. Why isn’t she more of a killer presence in the movie? Why isn’t she the scary henchman? I mean, after the big hotel fight she has with Wick shouldn’t she have become the final villain before the main villain? A missed opportunity.

And how about the great David Patrick “Luther!” Kelley as Charlie, the mob “body” guy? If he doesn’t have an action figure by next summer there’s something seriously wrong with the pop culture merchandise world. Seriously. (Writer’s note: There is something wrong with the pop culture merchandise world as it’s been nearly a decade and we still don’t have a Charlie action figure. What the hell pop culture merchandise world? What are you waiting for?)

John Wick is a great time at the movies, a badass action flick that deserves to be seen on a big screen. If it’s still playing near you and you haven’t seen it you need to make the time to do it as soon as possible. You must see John Wick. Must.

See John Wick. See it, see it, goddamn see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Lots.

Explosions: Multiple.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A beaten and bloody hero, multiple old videos, a badass muscle car, a funeral, puppy dog delivery, dog poop, a home invasion, dog killing, dead dog burying, floor cleaning, a chop shop, barfing, cleaning up barf, concrete floor breaking, a trunk filled with guns, knives, and gold coins, a badass suit, an armed home invasion, total henchmen destruction, serious neck breaking, heart stabbing, a dead body removal montage with shrink wrapped bodies, sniper rifle cleaning, serious leg breaking, multiple knifings, some serious point blank shooting, multiple head shots, a vicious fight with a chick, a church invasion, money burning, tape bondage, finger breaking, more head shots, attempted suffocation, a very cool shotgun, exploding trucks, a vicious beating, knife to the knee, some serious car combat, and a final fight that isn’t as good as it should be.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: New York City, Keanu Reeves, Keanu Reeves as a retired mob assassin in mourning, Bridget Moynahan, a bad ass muscle car, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe, a puppy named Daisy, a puppy eating cereal, a bowl for keys, driving practice, dog killing, people saying “John Wick,” a back tattoo, David Patrick Kelley, smoothie making, Marilyn Manson on the soundtrack, Kevin Nash as a doorman, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Russian singing, Adrianne Palicki as an assassin, gold coins, endless revenge, and a final fight that isn’t as good as it should be.

Best lines: “There’s no rhyme or reason to this life,” “Oh, I love dogs,” “Sleep tight, bitch!,” You either kill me now or get the fuck out of my shop!,” “That’s a nice jacket,” “That fucking nobody is John Wick,” Uh, you working again? No, just working some stuff out,” “Put a contract out on John Wick. How much? Two million,” “Would you kill John Wick for two million dollars?,” “I’m retired. Not if you’re drinking here, you’re not,” “Are you scared of the fucking Boogeyman? No. You should be,” “Do you really want to die here, Perkins?,” “Fuck management!,” “Don’t worry, housekeeping will find you,” “This life follows you,” “Who is that behind us? Oh, fuck!,” “Russian cocksucker!,” and “Be seeing ya, John. Yeah, be seeing ya.”

Rating: 8.9/10.0


Image Credit: Lionsgate


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Check out previous issues of From the B-Movie Vault!

From the B-Movie Vault: Phantasm and Phantasm II

From the B-Movie Vault: Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead and Phantasm IV: Oblivion

From the B-Movie Vault: Phantasm: Ravager and John Dies at the End

From the B-Movie Vault: Scanners

From the B-Movie Vault: Scanners II: The New Order and Scanners III: The Takeover

From the B-Movie Vault: Scanner Cop and Scanner Cop 2


John Wick: Chapter 2 Review

Image Credit: Lionsgate

John Wick: Chapter 2, directed by Chad Stahelski, is the kind of action movie the world always needs. Chock full of breathtaking, bone crunching hand-to-hand fight sequences, gun battles, and overwhelming badassery, Chapter 2 shows us that the action movie, when done correctly, can be a thing of true beauty. The movie likely won’t be all that impressive to people who aren’t into movies where people are repeatedly shot in the face at close range, but then those people clearly have problems that entertainment has no hope of solving.

Keanu Reeves stars once again as John Wick, the lethal assassin who just wants to leave the assassin world and live a quiet life in his fabulous house with his dog. After retrieving his stolen muscle car from the terrified Russian mobster Abram (the great Peter Stormare), killing a bunch of henchmen, and engaging in car combat that basically destroys the car he just got back, Wick buries his assassin gear in his basement and tries, once again, to live a quiet life. But then Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), an Italian mobster of some sort, shows up at Wick’s house to ask for his services. Due to some “assassin’s code/criminal underworld rules” hooey involving a debt owed and a fancy marker, Wick is obliged to repay his debt to Santino. Wick, though, doesn’t want to participate, even if he is obliged by the assassin’s code to follow through. So then Santino blows up Wick’s house, destroying everything inside of it, including several pictures of his dead wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan). Naturally, this pisses Wick off, and Wick decides to go kick Santino’s ass. Wick tracks Santino to the Continental, the swanky hotel that caters to members of the criminal underworld. While at the Continental Wick talks with Winston (Ian McShane), the hotel manager who seems to know all of the rules that the criminal underworld is meant to follow. Wick finds out that, because of the rules, Wick has to follow through and honor his marker to Santino. If Wick doesn’t, Wick’s life will be “forfeited.” So Wick agrees to accept Santino’s marker and do whatever the heck it is Santino wants him to do.

And what, exactly, does Santino want him to do? Santino wants Wick to go to Rome and eliminate his sister Gianna D’Antonio (Claudia Gerini) so he can obtain a seat at “the table,” which is where the major criminal organizations of the world meet to hash out what the criminal underworld is doing/wants to do. Wick is baffled by the request, as it’s very difficult to kill the head of a criminal organization (they tend to have the best people surrounding them), but, since he has to follow the rules, Wick goes to Rome to do the job. After arriving at the Rome version of the Continental, Wick meets the Italian version of Winston (Julius, as played by the Franco Nero), gets several new tailored suits, and meets with the voice of Darth Maul (Peter Serafinowicz) to get new weaponry. Wick is going to be on his own in Rome and he’s going to need the best stuff to take out Gianna and her henchmen and whoever else decides to get in his way. Wick may be the most revered assassin in the world, the ultimate killer and scary badass, but he knows that bad stuff can happen to you if you’re not prepared. And so Wick gets prepared.

So then some stuff happens, Wick sets up how he’s going to get at Gianna, Gianna shows up at a weird beard outdoor concert, and Wick kills her after she strips off her clothes, gets into a pool, and starts stabbing her own wrists. It’s at this point that Gianna’s bodyguard, Cassian (Common), realizes what the hell is going on and springs into action. Shots are fired, Wick starts killing people left and right in a series of underground tunnels, and all hell breaks loose. It’s also at this point that Wick, and the audience, realize that Santino has been watching Wick since he arrived in Rome via his mute henchwoman Ares (Ruby Rose, who just a few weeks ago was sent through a giant fan in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter) and that once Wick completes his mission Santino wants Wick dead. It’s called “tying up loose ends.”

So then some more stuff happens, Wick and Cassian have an epic gunfight/street brawl that will live forever on YouTube, and we end up back at the Continental. Because “business” cannot be conducted on Continental grounds, Wick and Cassian have a discussion and Cassian vows revenge. It’s to be expected, since Cassian failed at his job protecting his principal Gianna. Wick understands and decides to go back home to New York City. He can’t stay in Rome forever.

So Wick heads back to NYC, finds out that Santino has put a contract on Wick’s life for big bucks that has gone out to everyone involved in the criminal underworld, and suddenly Wick is fighting for his life. Multiple fights and attacks ensue, including one with Cassian and silenced handguns that is freaking brilliant and one with a pencil that should also live forever on YouTube. How the heck is Wick going to get out of this predicament?

The rest of the movie is basically one long action sequence broken up by a little meeting with homeless mafia head the Bowery King (the one, the only, Laurence “Larry” Fishburne) where Wick actually finds an ally. Sort of.

The gun fights and hand-to-hand brawls are all brutal and thrilling. Watching Wick in action, taking out multiple bad guys, shooting most of them in the head or face, is what great action movies are all about. You can actually see what’s happening, which is something you rarely get to experience in modern, big budget action flicks. The gunplay looks “realistic” in that no one is flying around on wires, something you also rarely see nowadays outside of the direct-to-video action movie world (and even that place is chock full of people flying around and shit). Wick’s Italian shotgun is a thing of beauty (he shoots a guy in the head with that shotgun and we get to see it on screen). Some people may complain about how Wick is essentially invincible, but then that’s just bullshit. Wick can get hurt (check out that pencil scene again), but he’s also supposed to be the best assassin in the world. Why would he be taken out by some random henchman?

The car chase/car combat sequence at the beginning of the movie is great because, even if it’s enhanced by CGI, it doesn’t look ridiculous.

Reeves is clearly the star of the story and he makes the biggest impression on the audience and the story. John Wick is a terrific action movie character and Reeves knows how to make him stand out (it’s in the way he stands. Even his weird dialogue reading makes the character stand out). Reeves also looks great in the various gun and fighting sequences. He isn’t a martial artist but he certainly knows how to sort of look like one in a movie. You will be in awe of his performance. Days later I still am.

The supporting cast is excellent and works well with Reeves. Both McShane and Nero are stern but elegant and act exactly how you would expect people running a worldwide criminal underworld hotel chain to act. Lance Reddick’s hotel front desk man Charon shows up again and helps Wick out by taking in his dog. Larry Fishburne’s Bowery King is fun because he’s clearly having the time of his life playing around with his old buddy Neo from The Matrix. And Riccardo Scamarcio is perfectly sleazy as Santino. Just a total scumbag (he blows up John Wick’s house! Who the hell does that?).

Common does a great job as Cassian. He can go with Reeves in the action scenes, and if and when they make a John Wick: Chapter 3 it’ll be interesting to see what happens with him then. And Ruby Rose is cool as hell as Ares. She’s actually kind of terrifying in some scenes. Watch that scene in the mirror room. Some of her facial expressions will give you momentary goosebumps.

John Leguizamo shows up, briefly, as Aurelio the underworld mechanic (I’d imagine he’ll be back for a part 3). Imdb claims that David Patrick “Luther” Kelly is in the movie again as Charlie, but I don’t remember seeing him (He shows up in one of the deleted scenes on the movie’s Blu-ray release). And Claudia Gerini gives an interesting performance as Gianna, but is her big disrobing scene the reason the movie, as part of its “R” rating, has “brief nudity?” Since when is the back and hip of a naked woman nudity? Is there murky nipple in an overhead shot of the pool that her character dies in? I don’t get it.

And that’s really the only “issue” with John Wick: Chapter 2. Where the heck is the brief nudity? The rest of the movie, the bulk of the movie, is action movie heaven. And with the way the movie ends, man, it looks like we’ll be in for even more action movie heaven if and when a Chapter 3 happens. And a John Wick: Chapter 3 must happen.

The world doesn’t need a John Wick TV show, at least not yet. The world needs more John Wick cinema. And that’s why you absolutely need to go see John Wick: Chapter 2. A must see on every conceivable level. A modern masterpiece. Superior to its predecessor. It’s what the world needs.

See John Wick: Chapter 2. See it, see it, goddamn see it!

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: If it’s less than one hundred I’d be shocked. Wick just mows down everyone.

Explosions: Multiple, big and small.

Nudity?: The MPAA seems to think there’s nudity in this movie but I didn’t see any.

Doobage: A pretty sweet muscle car/motorcycle chase, multiple vehicular crashes, drug running, serious strangulation, car stealing, car door hooey, major car combat, a brutal one-on-many brawl, serious knee capping, multiple headshots, basement hole filling, exploding house, multiple burning photographs, walking, dog watching, a getting stuff montage in Rome, a weird goddamn concert, attempted wrist slitting, dying while naked, a wicked bullet to the head, a cool gun duel where both people draw and get shot, multiple extended gun battles, a cool run and gun tunnel sequence, shotgun hooey, shotgun blast to the head and we see it (Automatic Greatest Movie Ever Made Nomination), an empty street gun battle, ancient steps hooey, window breaking, a gigantic sumo assassin, a deadly violin player, pencil hooey, neck breaking, a great silencer bit, a hilarious subway knife fight, a homeless assassin, a hellacious museum gun battle, mirror hooey, heart stabbing, a wicked bullet to the head, and a perfect set up for a sequel.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Silent film projected onto the side of a building for some reason, Peter Stormare, a rotary phone, Keanu Reeves, a truce drink, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Ruby Rose, Franco Nero, the voice of Darth Maul, a sort of “Raw Deal Ahnold Schwarzenegger checking his weapons and suiting up so he can go kill people” homage, Common, Italian shotgun hooey, sign language, a massive contract, Larry Fishburne, Larry Fishburne putting microchips in pigeons for some reason, a sweet .45 magnum, “Reflections of the Soul” museum exhibit, a terrifying scene in a public park, and a perfect set up for a sequel.

Best lines: “So we’re giving everything up for a car?,” “John Wick is a man of focus, commitment, the sheer fucking will,” “Can a man like you know peace?,” “You have a beautiful home, John,” “I’d like to see the manager,” “You want me to kill Gianna D’Antonio?,” “Happy hunting, Mr. Wick,” “Are you here for the Pope?,” “Mr. Wick, do enjoy your party,” “Do you fear damnation, John? Yes,” “You’re not having a good night, are you, John?,” “The blade is in your aorta. If you pull it out you die. Consider this a professional courtesy,” “You have a choice. Do you want a war or do you want to give me a gun?,” “You wanted me back? I’m back!,” “Be seeing you. Sure,” “You stabbed the devil in the back. To him this isn’t vengeance, this is justice,” “Duck fat, makes all the difference,” and “Whoever comes, I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all. Of course you will.”

Rating: 10.0/10.0


Image Credit: Lionsgate


Check out my review of John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum, which is still alive and well on the internets here!


Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

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John Wick

Keanu Reeves– John Wick
Michael Nyqvist– Viggo Tarasov
Alfie Allen– Iosef Tarasov
Willem Dafoe– Marcus
Dean Winters– Avi
Adrianne Palicki– Ms. Perkins
Daniel Bernhardt– Kirill
Bridget Moynahan– Helen
John Leguizamo– Aurelio
Ian McShane– Winston
Lance Reddick– Charon
David Patrick Kelley– Charlie

Directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski
Screenplay by Derek Kolstad

Distributed by Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate

Rated R for non-stop violence and language
Runtime– 101 minutes



John Wick: Chapter 2

Keanu Reeves– John Wick
Riccardo Scamarcio– Santino D’Antonio
Ian McShane– Winston
Ruby Rose– Ares
Common– Cassian
Claudia Gerini– Gianna D’Antonio
Lance Reddick– Charon
Larry Fishburne– The Bowery King
Franco Nero– Julius
Bridget Moynahan– Helen
Peter Stormare– Abram
Peter Serafinowicz– Sommelier
John Leguizamo– Aurelio

Directed by Chad Stahelski
Screenplay by Derek Kolstad

Distributed by Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate

Rated R for strong violence throughout, language, and alleged brief nudity
Runtime– 122 minutes