John Wick

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Release: Friday, October 24, 2014

[Theater]

Written by: Derek Kolstad

Directed by: Chad Stehelski; David Leitch

John Wick is yet another Keanu Reeves vehicle that operates much like an actual one would sans the steering wheel: basic things like moving straight ahead are possible but trying something fancy like taking a left-hand turn renders the driving clumsy and crashing into your mailbox more than just a possibility.

The metaphor’s more appropriate than I originally intended, for the man’s focus has seemingly shifted away from scantily-clad gothic chicks to slick and shiny muscle cars. No longer is there a need to dodge bullets when you can just hop into your Shelby GT-500 and drive away into the sunset and escape them in a more traditional manner.

This bullet-riddled, blood-stained adrenaline rush is less of a shot of adrenaline than it is a rush(-ed opportunity) to make Keanu appealing to a new generation. It’s pretty cool he’s being repurposed as a new kind of mainstream hero as this Equalizer-esque enigma who sticks to the shadows. And that he is making an apparent “return,” though it’s not all that clear where exactly it is that he went to. Have we forgotten Keanu, or something? That he is “back” is a slight misnomer as the sea of tired genre tropes rises to swallow his spirit yet again.

John Wick is long on killing and short on chilling. It’s “kick ass now and worry about the logistics (and physics) of it later. Or never.” While some may prefer it this way, the bludgeoning of bodies makes for a rather dull and predictable protagonist. When there’s this much space being cleared for its marquee name, the lack of thought elsewhere becomes an issue quickly. A revenge plot dipped into a pool of malice, brooding spite and admittedly gorgeous cinematography, the film’s ambitions can be sniffed out from the opening shot. John Wick is very, very basic and its vignettes too easy to predict.

At the risk of contradicting myself, I’ll dare to say simplicity is a part of its appeal as well. Narrative clutter you will not find in these 140 minutes.

Co-directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski (the latter performed stunts in the über-spoof comedy Kung Pow: Enter the Fist!) strip the number of players down to the bare necessities. Top-billed are essentially Wick, his dog (he at least should be, he does some damn fine acting) and a bunch of aggressive foreign enemies duking it out amidst a heavily-stylized urban jungle of decay and disillusion. There’s an almost romantic quality to the beauty in each frame though the jury’s still out on whether this is necessarily the best-looking martial arts film of the year. The choreography of the brutal martial arts sequences should contribute mightily to the likelihood of this receiving some sort of recognition, although The Raid 2: Berendal probably would like to have final say on that.

As a final grievance, while Keanu’s blandness suits the dejectedness of this character it’s the character that ultimately feels out of sync with his environs. He moves in and out of this place, as well as the second-rate story, with too much ease and nonchalance. He’s Robert McCall, only he might enjoy life a little more. John Wick’s a character packaged as a Neo look-alike — a neo-Neo, if you will — but there is one glaring difference between the Keanu the Wachowski’s basically invented before the turn of the millennium and the one we get in 2014. And that’s novelty.

Unfortunately Neo saw Zion first. The One will forever cast a great big shadow, unless something truly compelling is yet to come along still, of course. I thought this would be close, but no. No cigar. An at-times tongue-in-cheek throwback to Neo’s capabilities this may be, but it is frequently more generic and stilted than clever or nostalgic.

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2-5Recommendation: There are parts that work and a lot more that do not for “The Boogey Man” (those awkwardly inserted subtitles are hugely distracting, as another example.) As an original bit of film this fails but as an entertaining hour and a half at the movies you could do a lot worse. Fans of Keanu will more than likely be impressed with his commitment to the craft this time; there’s no denying he is more on his game here. Precisely why those expecting a story to match his intensity will be so exasperated.

Rated: R

Running Time: 101 mins.

Quoted: “Yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back. . .”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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28 thoughts on “John Wick

  1. Pingback: TBT: The Matrix (1999) | digitalshortbread

  2. Y’know, I thought all the critical acclaim I’ve been seeing on this one was too good to be true. Lol. Good to know I’m not missing anything by waiting for a DVD release (or just skipping it altogether). Good work, amigo!

    • Haha! Well, I don’t want to say I will tell you so, but. . . . .if you go to this and come out disappointed, I will say it!!! Who am I kidding? lol I’d love to say that!

      Nah, but for real. I don’t think ‘John Wick’ is a bad one. But I don’t think it’s good, either. It’s very very very generic. Also, I’m not sure what I should have expected out of this either, but it was something more. . . hmm. . .how to put this delicately. . . creative?

      • Yeah. For all the good reviews it’s had you’d think it has something creative! But I thought when I saw the trailer that it looked a lot like a boatload of other movies that have come out lately…oh well. :/

  3. Nice review; even though I liked this one a little more than you, I share your confusion at the praise this is getting for its action choreography when The Raid 2 is *right there.* Not that the action is poorly shot or anything, it’s just not on the level of Evans’ work.

    • High five!!

      I just don’t understand how it’s gotten *this* good of ratings. I sound snobby right now, I know that. lol. But there’s been an untold number of films like this, even with Reeves in it, that have not done this well. We’re damn eye-to-eye on this too, b/c I too think the action isn’t poorly shot (actually far from it), but it’s not on a level like what I’ve understood Gareth Evan’s to be in his Raid movies. I need to quit dilly-dallying and check those flicks out already!

  4. Pingback: AEOS Review: John Wick (2014) | All Eyes On Screen

    • I can empathize with that. Thanks, there is some fun in John Wick — I won’t deny that. But it’s not as good as I hoped it would be. Keanu is a little more dynamic, though.

  5. I am seeing this movie tonight, and I’m pretty excited, especially because of your review, Tom! I get the feeling I will probably have similar thoughts to you, but it’s look stylistically beautiful. That said, I could see this movie as a style-over-substance deal. Great review!

    • There was a lot of fun in John Wick but also quite a few things that I just thought could have been better. Movies always are going to have cliches in them but this one had one too many. And I still don’t understand how it’s been this popular. This is literally no different than other things he’s done before that have gotten far less positive ratings. Not that the support for the film is a bad thing but it just seems strange to me that everyone is picking up on the things that Keanu Reeves usually does and the kinds of material he surrounds himself with. . . but only now.

      Oh well. I hope you enjoy yourself Kristen. You have been cautioned. 🙂 🙂

        • Yep! Just read yours and loved it too. Very good points you make, and the more I read reviews on it, the more I question how I missed the fun in it all. Sometimes I sound like such a picky reviewer! 😉

          • Hey, I think it’s cool that you stuck to your guns and put out there what YOU thought. It’s always a bit harder to go against the grain, especially against the popular opinion (I know I did that a bit with Gone Girl). I think being picky is good, though, so cheers to you!

  6. This has an 86% on RT and got rave festival tweets from folks who loved it. I’ve been highly anticipating this and continue to see impressive scores for it on WordPress that make it sound worth the wait. You being a negative Nancy about it does lower my expectations a tad, but I’m already predicting us disagreeing big time on this one.

    I like shoot-em-up movies. I don’t expect something very creative here. Just 90 minutes of badassness. These movies serve their purpose and I’d hate if every single movie was dedicated to intricate plots. Sometimes 90 minutes of shooting people in the face is fun!

    • Undoubtedly there are sequences that are deserving of the praise. And as a relatively devoted Keanu Reeves fan, I enjoyed what he brought to the table. Something felt still missing though, regardless of the intelligence factor (which was definitely lacking). I don’t mind 90 minutes of dumb, blind action but I suppose there’s a limit to what I can accept.

      That said, I think I may be a little harsh with this one. Oh well. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Still mad at you dude. You know what is funny? Right after reading your review, I got a call from a buddy raving about how I needed to go see John Wick. So there (sticks out tongue)…

        But on a serious note, I respect your score and opinion of course. I just pray that I disagree!

        • Disagreement is often more fun and leads to open discussions more than just a casual nod of agreement. It’s cool that people can identify with so many things, and yet be out of alignment on just a few.

  7. Now and again I like shoot em up movies, too bad this one sounds very generic. Point Blank and The Matrix are a good fit for Keanu other times his limited expressions work against him. Great review Tom!

    • That’s my impressions of him Eddie, I think it really revolves a lot around the material he’s working with. His blank expressions serve a purpose for things like Neo and yeah, I always forget Point Break! That’s a good one too.

      I find him more animated in The Devil’s Advocate and even this movie to some degree but it’s a gamble usually. I wish the writing were better for John Wick. This coulda been a classic. Thanks man

  8. I gotta say, I loved this movie. Pretty much 90 minutes of shooting people in the face. I really dug the soundtrack and the color palate as well, it looked really cool. Definitely not for everyone, though.

    • That’s great news to hear man, and you should know I am typically a fan of Reeves in these positions. He is a badass without having to say too much. His actions sort of speak for themselves. I just found this movie was willing to sacrifice too much creative content just to make the point he is just that badass, though. We get it; he was Neo. And he was awesome. Haha!

    • I found it to be anyway. I am gobsmacked by how well it’s doing critically and commercially however. Go on to any major site and its getting pretty positive scores. I am a bit confused. There is nothing special about this product whatsoever. Keanu is highly likable (mostly b/c of his affection for his dog. . .which is admittedly funny), and the action is capably performed and captured. Aside from that, John Wick has no identity or personality. 🙂

    • I miss The Matrix too. I like Keanu Reeves quite a lot actually, though. His wooden style of acting usually appeals to me. He’s not the big problem here, though. The story is. An absolute dime a dozen, these shoot-em-up movies. 🙂 Cheers Cindy

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