Sunday, March 15, 2015

John Wick (2014) (R)

Director: Chad Stahleski, David Leitch (uncredited)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Defoe, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Adrianne Palicki, Dean Winters, Bridget Moynahan

Hearing nothing but good things about the sleeper action film John Wick (2014), I figured the high praise was enough give this one a go. Let me start by saying, nothing in this movie disappoints. The premise is ridiculous, the flick knows it’s off the rails, and what makes it work is that it simply does not care what you think. The people behind the revenge picture might as well have added a disclaimer that reads: “Sit down. Shut up. Enjoy.” And with that being said, (Holy Body Count!) was this a non-stop Funfest. (Even my Lady liked it. That’s saying something.)

John Wick (Reeves) starts off as a sympathetically stoic widower having a tough time dealing with the loss of his ailing wife (Moynahan). Keeping to himself, very little is given about his back-story, other than he has a sweet ass car and an adorable new puppy. At times the opening feels like they were going for the sappy levels we succumbed to in the gut wrenchingly somber intro of Up (2009). But that all comes to a screeching halt once the son of a Russian mob boss (Allen) takes an unhealthy interest in Wick’s car while filling up at a gas station (Word to the wise, don’t mess with another man’s ride.). After breaking into his home and stealing (amongst other horrific acts) the beloved vehicle, much (MUCH) more is of Wick’s past life slowly simmers to the surface and eventually leads to an all out boil-over of who this relatively quiet man truly was. And it just keeps getting better from there.

This movie was drag out, blood and guts, slam-bam (add more silly terms at your leisure) from the end of Act One on and it doesn’t let up until the final shot. Normally, this can be tedious and ineffective, but the world that opens up to the viewer is so well crafted that it leaves the audience clamoring for more. The supporting cast is amazing as well, dropping familiar faces into this gumbo of awesome at a steady, but not over saturated, pace. Rough, gritty, and self aware of it’s coo-coo bananas plot, the filmmakers put together a production that comes with a slick polish all the while throwing everything they could at the screen without apology. I haven’t seen a movie this confident in a crazy premise since Jason Statham ran amok in Crank (2006).

I can see why this film was not seen by a wider audience. On the surface, one would think this was another mindless shoot ‘em up, but John Wick is so much more. The trailers had to be mum about the storyline because to tell the entire plot would take away the dark but somehow comedic goings on of the picture. Hell, even the title tells you nothing. And if you can stay in that state of obliviousness until you see it, all the better.

This movie is not for everyone, mind you. Grandma may want to sit this one out (unless she’s cool, then I say game on). The violence is just that, violent. But what did you think you were getting from an action movie. The fight choreography and gun play were great. Look away for even a second and you've missed something. Bringing back the one man army that was Reeves in The Matrix series, John Wick keeps that mantra true to form throughout with a tight blending of fists and firearms. An action fan truly gets his money’s worth on this one.

As stated earlier, the body count in this film is staggering and unrelenting. So much so that if you look hard enough, you can find links on Youtube giving a shocking (yet accurate) number for the
titular character alone (worth a gander, but you gotta do the leg work on that one.). What makes this rough pill so easy to swallow is how the violence is presented. The rules of John Wick’s universe, once you are brought behind the curtain, is so over blown and aware of it’s cool, that as a viewer it never seems out of place. In fact, one might feel naked without it.

So, now comes the part of the review where I give my honest opinion. Smart. Mindless. Dark. Funny. Sad. Triumphant… most of all entertaining.  The scales are never tipped in one direction or the other emotionally. Every feeling is fair game and the ride begs you to get in line twice. And, you just might. Now shut off the lights. Turn up the sound. And hang on, because John Wick is going to beat some fun into your ass. (Was that too much? It might have been too much… Screw it. Your ass will be beaten with fun.). Enjoy!

Ruff Rider

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