Monday, October 27, 2014

A Reel Review: JOHN WICK

Shoot-em-up action movies often fall into distinct categories; men-on-a-mission, defeat-the-baddies, and the good old fashioned out-for-revenge movie. The newest asskicker of a movie by directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, JOHN WICK…goes for the path of revenge, and not much else.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a retired hitman who has just lost his wife (Bridget Moynahan). When his newly adopted puppy is murdered by the Russian mob, Wick embraces his old self and goes on a revenge-fueled rampage.

Payback is a bitch, and JOHN WICK is a film which embraces that approach 110%. The trick to revenge films is giving the audience a reason to hope that the revenge comes about, and JOHN WICK spends a lot of time setting that up. A good portion of the film is spent with Wick as he loses his wife, and then his so-adorable-you-could-puke puppy to some very despicable people. A surprising amount of emotion and feeling is generated in the opening act of the film, and once the bullets and fists and blood starts to fly, you are certainly rooting for those despicable bad-guys to get what they deserve.
Directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski stage some stunning and big-nuts fun action sequences surrounded by some glorious looking setpieces. The gunfights and fistfights are not only loads of fun, but they are easy to follow thanks to some fluid camerawork and editing. The battles are important, because with so little plot or script to work with, JOHN WICK hangs all of its hats on those action sequences…nearly to its demise. In presenting fight-after-fight, and bloodspill-after-bloodspill, the film falls into the redundancy of a Ferris Wheel; just the same thing every few minutes only under different scenery. The fight scenes begin to lose their peril because we already know what the endgame is, and none of the battles, as great as they are, move the plot (what there is of if) forward. With so much redundancy, JOHN WICK oddly feels a lot longer than its 96-minute running time, and it’s easy to zone-out once the 568th fistfight rolls around.

Keanu Reeves is magnificent in what may be the best he’s ever acted. The early goings of the film have him carrying a great amount of quiet emotion which is let loose in small bursts. Reeves shows great range in going from sadness to raging wrath in a blink. The physical and emotional demands of his responsibilities are massive, and he handles them with ease. The rest of the cast is solid as well; Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, and Ian Mcshane.
JOHN WICK spends a lot of effective time in building the universe that Wick and his fellow assassins inhabit, and the film gives enough to make us want to visit it again…only with maybe a little more story. One’s enjoyment of the film hinges upon their lust for guns and booms and asskicking, because that’s all the movie wants to be. It’s an un-ambitious effort, and that alone is a fault.


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