10.27.2014

John Wick

Gonna be a looot of gun pointin!
"Don't Set Him Off!"

Hello friends, welcome back to The Tagline. Today we're taking a brief break from the frightfest to talk about Keanu murdering dude, because that's what I decided to spend my Saturday afternoon watching. This particular movie is perhaps a return to form for Reeves, who spent a healthy amount of time as an action star before kind of falling off the edge of the world (though I recently reviewed Man of Tai Chi, which Reeves directed and also starred in as the primary antagonist) and now he seems to slowly be coming back into focus (I mean he's been in a steady clip of movies I just mostly didn't care about them, and I didn't care about HIS role in 47 Ronin). Reeves stars as the eponymous John Wick, a man who we're introduced to at a very vulnerable moment, as his wife has just passed away from cancer. He receives as a post mortem gift from his wife, an adorable little puppy named Daisy, and bonds with the little monster while going about the process of grieving his wife. This portion of the movie lasts just long enough that you start to wonder if you're in the right movie theater, or whether there was another Keanu Reeves movie playing right next door about a sad guy bonding with a puppy. Just around that point though, Theon Greyjoy shows up and murders John Wick's puppy and steals his '69 Mustang (okay so obviously it's not Theon Greyjoy, it's Alfie Allen playing the son of a Russian crime boss names Iosef but I found his character more or less the same). Iosef tries to sell the stolen car to Aurelio (John Leguizamo), and much like Theon might, he gets bitch slapped for doing something dumb and is sent out of the shop. Iosef's father, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist, probably most famous for portraying Michael Blomkvist in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies, the Swedish ones) calls up Aurelio asking why he did such a thing, and Aurelio explains how catastrophically Iosef has fucked up. Viggo responds simply by going "oh..." 

A murderer needs a classy car to get around.
This is the point where we start to understand as an audience just what sort of guy John Wick is. Did he traditionally spend a lot of time crying about puppies? It's looking like the answer is emphatically no. It becomes immediately apparent that everyone is scared absolutely shitless of this guy, who apparently got out of his previous job as a hitman by completing what Viggo describes to the Allstate Mayhem Guy (Dean Winters portrays Viggo's second in command) as an "impossible task" that put Viggo on top, presumably because John Wick had singlehandedly taken out all of his competition. John Wick is known colloquially as the Boogie Man, and you can tell just by how people react to his presence or mention of him that he is not someone you want to fuck with. It's too late though, he's been fucked with, and now as a man who's had his last solace taken from him, he busts out his old tools of the trade and sets out on what you can predict will be a really violent expression of his feelings. Viggo sends a hit squad of twelve guys to try and get the jump on John and... well you can guess how that goes. They're all dead in the space of a few minutes, killed in a spectacularly violent fashion that shows off both the mechanically relentless methods of John and also the stylish cinematography of the film.

This is Keanu Reeves acting.
This opening scene lets you know pretty much what you can expect from the rest of the movie. For the most part John Wick is a pretty archetypal revenge action movie, where our lone badass picks apart an organization that wronged him. It isn't very innovative, but it is stylish as hell in its execution, and paced in a way that keeps things exciting, and keeps you on the hook to see how things turn out. You know John Wick is a serious customer, but it's him against everyone else, and it seems unclear whether even someone has tough as him can pull it off. One thing is for sure though, and that's that a bunch of people are going to get shot to pieces while he tries. I can say definitively that if that's why you've come to the movies, you are not going to be disappointed. Just be ready for sad puppy death, I knew it was coming but it still bummed me out.

I don't know who imagined any other scenario really.
One of the more interesting aspects of this movie is that while it is at its core just about a guy getting revenge, or finding an outlet for his frustration and rage, it has a little bit of interesting world building around the edges. It is clear that in this setting there is a class of professional mercenaries and assassins, and that they operate under certain auspices. There is an organization called the Continental, which occupies an upscale hotel and acts as a safe haven for professional killers, with very strict no murder rules on the premises. Also everyone seems to get paid in gold coins, which adds to the sort of gritty comic book feel of the setting. This is basically the real world but... has some distinctly not real elements to it, that make the movie stand out in a crowd as being a little bit more thought out than the average entry into this genre.

What you get is exactly what's advertised, a high energy action movie centered around a single plot point, that is executed with style and enthusiasm. I definitely recommend checking it out. That's all for today, join me again later in the week when we will round out October with one more trip down horror lane!

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