John Wick

Back in 2014 when I wasn’t hampered with mandatory health insurance payments and I could afford cable, I saw a lot of John Wick commercials. “Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back” was heard and scoffed at by myself countless times. The trailers and ads made John Wick look like a Jason Statham movie but with Keanu Reeves and I had zero intentions of watching it.

Then the reviews came out and all of the people that I respect in the media industry raved about the movie. I was surprised by the response as my initial impressions were not positive.

Fast forward two years later and I finally watched John Wick and understood the hype. I watched it again last Saturday after UFC 208 and I appreciated the movie even more after a second viewing. On paper the movie sounds horrendous, a former hitman on a hate filled revenge killing spree fueled by the sadness of his wife dying and the anger of having his car stolen and dog murdered. To add onto the unbelievable plot and conflict, the universe the movie resides in has a strange underground hitman society with its own set of rules and principles.

Despite its plot and dead pan lead actor, the movie fucking rules. It uncovers the strange hitman society and gives a simple but efficient back story on John Wick, creating a likeable character that you want to see be successful on his revenge tour. I was rooting for Wick with every person he killed and escape from every insane situation he found himself in.

The style of the movie is fun and slick featuring on screen words and phrases to complement what is being said in the scene. When you learn of John Wick’s nick name “the Boogeyman”, the sleek stylized word Boogeyman appeared on the screen. This style was unexpected but I liked these graphics as they added emotion and gravity to what was being said. The only movies that I have seen that have done similar on screen graphics are Tony Scott movies, specifically Man on Fire and Domino.

What stands out the most in the first John Wick movie is the action. Keanu Reeves did an impeccable job with the actions scenes and clearly knows his way around a gun. The fast pace killing of large groups of people with gun porn mixed in is the movies greatest attribute.

The acting is also of high standard featuring William Dafoe (Out of the Furnace, The Boondock Saints, American Psycho), Michael Nyqvist (Europa Report, Colonia), Ian McShane (Death Race), Dean Winters (Oz, car insurance commercials), Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) and of course Keanu Reeves (The Replacements, Man of Tai Chi, The Neon Demon). Reeves is in that peculiar situation where he is the lead man in the movie but is surrounded by much better actors. I like Reeves, from everything I have heard about him he is a super cool dude, but he isn’t a great actor. He was good in this role as he was playing a quiet emotionless killer but the acting was carried by his counter parts.

Other smaller roles were played by recognizable actors like John Leguizamo (The Happening, The Counselor), Lance Reddick (The Wire), Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom), and Clarke Peters (The Wire).

The director of John Wick, Chad Stahelski, has an interesting history with movies. He started out in the movie industry as a stunt man, most famously for Brandon Lee who (son of Bruce Lee) who was killed accidently while filming The Crow (he also worked on the Matrix Trilogy). Stahelski shot the remaining stunts and rewrites for Lee after his death for The Crow. After learning this, the well-choreographed and direct action scenes made a lot of sense. The dude is a former stunt man. Even more surprising is that John Wick is Stahelski’s directorial debut. He had a co-director, David Leitch, who is also a former stunt man known for his work in The Matrix Trilogy. Leitch also had never directed a movie before, so he and fellow stunt man Stahelski worked together to direct a unique movie.

John Wick is a surprisingly great action movie that received acclaim from every corner of the internet and media industry. It was popular, filled the internet with gifs, and made some money which meant a sequel was all but guaranteed.

John Wick: Chapter 2

I saw John Wick: Chapter 2 with the fellas at the theater last night. There is no better way to experience a movie in a theater free of distractions with a huge screen and quality sound system. Sometimes venturing into a theater can come with some downfalls that degrade the movie viewing experience. Often times there are other creatures known as human beings in the same theater as you and chances are one of them does something consistently that is extremely rude. When I saw Silence last month a chick was on her phone face timing someone for a long time. Last night at the 6:45 PM showing of John Wick: Chapter 2, an older man in the row in front of us grunted at a world record pace. I believe he has a mental tick that he can’t control that causes him to grunt or to clear his throat. Every couple of minutes or so a very audible “grunnnah” projected through the theater. I hate people.

The movie is a worthy sequel. Like most sequel’s it follows the same formula as the first movie but with “more” everything. This movie had more action, more deaths, more car chases, and went deeper into the hitman universe.

The movie begins with John Wick continuing his revenge tour from the first film. In an effort to get his car back, he kills nearly everyone in a chop shop ran by a relative of the main villain of the first movie. After obtaining his car his revenge had been completed. Then a new character is introduced and a new mission prevents Wick from retiring and sends him on another hate fueled revenge mission.

Similar to the first movie, the action scenes, gun porn, and choreography is this movies strong point. Admittingly by the third act I was getting bored of watching Wick summersault over guys while knee capping and head shooting nameless henchmen. The weakest scenes were the intro and final action scene that involved a house of mirrors in a heavy handed attempt to portray self-reflection. This movie had a much larger budget allowing Stahelski to use Michael Bay –sequel action scenes that don’t mesh well with the originality of the characters and universe. The acting of Peter Stormare in the opening scene was just plainly bad. He was used as a vehicle to connect the two movies by rehashing the first one.

Everything between the opening and final action scenes were great. More familiar faces were added to the cat including Common (Terminator Salvation, Wanted, Smokin’ Aces), Larry Fishburne (Event Horizon, The Matrix), Ricardo Scamarcio, and Ruby Rose. I am not the biggest Common or Fishburne fans but they played their roles well, Ricardo Scamarcio played a hate-able villain, and Ruby Rose didn’t say one audible word but stole my attention every time she appeared on screen.

Stahelski directed this movie on his own as Leitch was working on his own projects including Deadpool 2.

The movie didn’t have a conclusion ending on a massive cliff hanger and it has already been announced that John Wick 3 is in the works. This sequel isn’t as good as the original but it is definitely worthy of carrying the John Wick name and continued with the creative and “holy shit!” action scenes.