John Wick, featuring Keanu Reeves, takes the concept of the Taken movies, stirs in a bit of Fast and Furious and a hint of Matrix humor and comes up with, basically, a 101-minute waste of time.
I know – reviewers who can’t see the fun in two hours of point and shoot revenge rationalized by some you-crossed-the-line sentimentality – in John Wick’s case, his puppy is bludgeoned with a baseball bat and his 1969 mint condition Mustang is stolen – should stay home.
And that’s the point. I wish I had.
Yes, I’m that stick-in-the-mud who thinks two hours of shoot at anything that moves is not a very sophisticated plot line.
When you say action thriller, I suppose some semblance of surprise isn’t technically required, but by the time John Wick executes his six hundredth thug in a dark suit that looks like a movie extra from Guys and Dolls and who, apparently couldn’t hit the floor with a bowling ball, it is ruthlessly unsurprising. He’s a hit man par excellence who comes out of retirement because he’s been wronged. But who can’t predict that the next scene is John Wick spinning, punching, grimacing and shooting his way through another horde of heavies – maybe this time in a dance hall, rather than a parking lot?
This literally turns into a stylized version of Enter the Dragon meets Whack-A-Mole.
All the bad guys hunch behind black SUVs have Russian accents and dress like Robert Mitchum and Keanu Reeves maintains one hard-nosed grimace through 99 percent of the film. Reeves: “What’s my motivation in the next scene?” Directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski: “Uhm, you hate everything and everybody.” Reeves: “Same as the last 25 scenes.” Directors: “Right.”
So, what are the good points?
Well, if you like this sort of thing, this will probably be on your Top 10 Brutally Senseless Movies of Week list and more power to you. I happened to enjoy the concept that everybody in the film is either a trained assassin, a minion, a mob boss or a bartender, waiter, or bell hop who earns tips by serving assassins, minions and mob bosses.
Halfway through the film, John Wick checks into the Continental Hotel, which is a safe zone – no assassinations allowed here, especially while the other guests are trying to get some R&R. There’s a tsk, tsk, house rule against blood on the carpet, which makes for a Quenton Tarantino-type parallel universe. Murder 500 if you like, but not on hotel property. Then call in the clean up crew and tip them with a gold coin. (Hey, the hours are rough, but there’s no heavy lifting.)
There’s a Silvestor Stallone film in which he kills 40 or 50 in a barroom fight and the scene cuts to him walking on a dock on a misty morning at the lake with his baritone voice-over that says, “It’s easy to get sentimental about this sort of thing.” It’s my favorite non-sequitur by a long shot.
In John Wick the writers seem to sense that they’ve been killing people for an hour and a half over a dog and a car, so after the Russian mobster finally has Wick in his clutches tied to a chair in a damp garage, Viggo Tarasov (played by Michael Nygvist) looks Wick in the eye and says, “You’ve always had a certain audacity about you.”
Is that what they’re calling it these days? He’s killed 300 or so hardly breaking a sweat and with that smokey determination in his eyes. He looks a bit tired, but not too bad. And the evening is yet young.
Yes, John Wick has a certain audacity about it. Wicked nasty. A bit tongue in cheek. If that’s what you like, this is five stars of all the above.
Otherwise, I’m writing with some smokey determination myself. The movie makers are finding out, just as they Russian mobsters did, that they’ve pissed off the wrong guy.