Saturday, March 7, 2015

John Wick—Wickedly Good

Reviewing movies isn’t really my thing anymore.  Watching movies, that’s always been my thing. 
It's good.  Whoa!
There was a time, before we got all “globalized” and “internetz’d” that I had a firm handle on movies in general.  Throw out a quote, and I had a 99.44% chance of knowing it or guessing it.

Glory days—amiright?

I still enjoy movies, but most are so homogenized with generic “fun” and engineered “excitement” that it’s more of a ho-hum kind of event for me.  More of a habit than anything else.

There are, though, still films that come along which can wow me.  Not just wow but WOW.  The kind of film that makes my fingers itch to put in two or even three exclamation points after that configuration of three letters.


This isn’t because the film is particularly good, or especially clever, or layered in witty, snappy dialogue.  It’s generally not going to be an Academy Award nominee.  It’s a film that reaches out its noodly appendage and touches some visceral part of my otherwise shallow and jaded soul.

Get ready to root for the bad guy!
But as John's tattoo says: Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat.

Fortune favors the bold.

Last night I caught John Wick.  I’d heard, even with Keanu Reeves starring, the film was good.  I just didn’t know how good.  The premise is straight up noir/revenge in the fine tradition of Mel Gibson’s Payback.  These films don’t so much need a reason for revenge as they need a place for it to happen—locations where our anti-hero protagonist can vent frustration and bullets in equal measure.

But John Wick (and Payback for that matter) are more than just shoot-em-ups.  I’ve seen plenty of those and very few stick out.  There are two key elements that really got to me in this film.  First, there’s a whole implausible-but-seemingly-possible Other World where shady, shifty, bad-ass assassins and killers move and communicate and have a kind of code.  Big stars in minor roles help convey this sense of realism in an unrealistic world—Michael Nyqvist, Willem DaFoe, John Leguizamo, Adrianne Palicki, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and more.  Much more.

There isn’t a character in the film that I didn’t enjoy, no matter what side they were on.

Second, and somewhat key for me, is the mortality that our immortal protagonist shows throughout.  Wick is a bad, bad man.  So bad that he’s earned the Russian moniker “Baba Yaga”, traditionally a witch, sometimes used as a boogeyman to scare children into bed.  Yeah, Wick is that bad.  He’s the kind of guy that, if you know his name, you really wish you didn’t.  But once his road is set and we know it’s going to be bloody, it’s bloody for everyone including Wick.  He doesn’t just end up with some minor flesh wounds.  The dude is beat to hell and back.

And that’s how it should be.

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