Friday, February 13, 2015

John Wick

John Wick (2014)
Producers: Kevin Scott Franks, Stephen Hamel, Tara Moross, et al.
Director: Chad Stahelski
Rated: R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Runtime: 101 min
Genre: Action, Thriller

What John Wick isn't: a thoughtful portrait of a man and how he deals with loss in his life, filled with exemplary dialogue and acting, anchored by a nuanced directorial effort. What John Wick is: a slick and stylish action story featuring plenty of quality firearms work, well photographed stunt work, and just enough humor to make it feel like the action movies of the past.

There's nothing fancy about John Wick. The script takes less than fifteen minutes to plunge the viewer in Keanu Reeves' quest for for revenge. Is it a little silly that the catalyst for the bloodshed happens to be the death of his dog? Maybe, but I'm not going to tell Mr. Wick that. The important thing in a movie like this one is the action, not the 'why' behind the action, and it's in that area that John Wick excels. Reeves, for the most part, looks like he knows what he's doing; I bought into the character being the most accomplished killer in town completely. There is very little wasted motion in the choreography, when a head shot opens up Wick takes it without hesitation, time and time again. Unlike many action movies of the last ten years or so, the camera work is steady and focused. There's never an issue seeing what's going on, the purpose is to highlight how good John is, not to conceal flaws by making it hard to see what's happening

I also enjoyed the brief glimpses the audience got into the contract killing world. It supports its own micro-economy of killers and cleaners, and those that give some structure and a sense of normalcy to what they do. Bars, hotels, and doctors clued in to the way the world works all accept payment not in cash or wire transfers, those are all too easy to fake or trace; they operate under a much older system of commerce, the exchange of gold. The idea that there is a bar/hotel where the elite hitmen of the world can go without fear of reprisal from one of the many enemies they must make was a fun touch.

The dialogue is far from good, there's just enough humor there to separate the action sequences, but it gets the point across. I really enjoyed Michael Nyvqvist's portrayal of Viggo. There was a hint of Peter Stormare in his manner with the crazy toned back just a bit. While I enjoyed the score, it seemed to fit the movie's style very well, there were times that it was just too loud. There are several times throughout the movie that the music or a background noise, such as rain, drowns out what's being said. I found myself leaning in trying to separate the dialogue from the cacophony of other sounds. If you can't hear what's being said you can rest assured that you're not missing Shakespeare, but I like to know what's being said anyway.

Conclusion: If you're sitting around the house with some free time on your hands, and enjoy a carefree bundle of violence without needing a lot of exposition to drag you down, give John Wick a watch. The gun fights and the cinematography that brings them to the table are worth your time. This is the type of movie that benefits from the audience knowing what they're in for. It's brutal and fun, while not trying to be anything else.

Rating: 7.5/10

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