Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Wick-ed" Action

Take Unforgiven, Road to Perdition and The Professional, roll them all together, remove any depth and/or substance, add a rock soundtrack, a bluish/greenish tint to everything and, last but not least, stick Keanu Reeves and a cute little canine in the middle of it all and you end up with John Wick, a flashy, slickly produced and at times surprisingly funny action flick that doesn't have one single original idea in his head and yet still manages to be highly entertaining nonetheless. Reeves plays the titular character, a former hit man grieving over the recent death of his wife (for whom he retired) whose newly acquired puppy, a final gift from his beloved, is killed by some burglars who break into his house one night to steal his car. The rest of the movie is him seeking revenge on these lowlifes, one of whom is the son a prominent Russian mobster.

That's it. That's the whole plot.

I liked John Wick and partly because of its very simplicity. It is, in a way, a very honest and straightforward action picture. It understands that whatever plot or narrative it does have is really just an excuse to stage some kick ass action scenes. There's no elaborate conspiracy, no drug deal gone wrong, no corrupt socio-political system that the protagonist has to break up, etc. An ex-assassin's dog is killed and he wants to take down the guys that did it. That's all. Naturally in the process he has to dispatch every anonymous bad guy that gets in his way (seriously, he must kill at least 50 people over the course of this movie) in some exciting and extremely well choreographed -- not to mention comprehensibly shot and cut -- action sequences. It's refreshing to see a movie where the camera remains on the action for a while such that you can actually see what is happening and to whom (not as long as Soderbergh's Haywire, but still, relatively speaking, a long time) as opposed to most action movies nowadays which are shot with shaky cam and cut to within an inch of their life. Reeves, who still has his limitations as an actor, is really quite impressive (what is he now, 50?) as he appears to do a lot of his own stuntwork and is really rather agile in a very physically demanding role.

Yes, all of the action movie tropes and cliches are here (a fun drinking game would be to take a sip every time you see a helicopter shot of the city at night; even if you made it to the end of the movie, the final credits would do you in) and there isn't much to linger long in the memory after seeing it, but so what? It's still a fun ride.

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