Movie Review: JOHN WICK – by the numbers revenge movie, but a welcome return for Keanu Reeves

John Wick

Finally saw John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves, at the second go-round. I initially was excited by this, given the positive Keanu-is-back!! reviews, and the high rating on the old Tomatometer, and was disappointed to miss it on its first run. Having watched it last night, my initial interest was replaced by the deflated reality of the movie.

First of all, Keanu Reeves is one of those actors that pretty much everyone can agree is not all that great, but he seems to have this aura of likeability around him that makes you want to see him have another hit, or at least, not disappear into obscurity. Sad to say, but for me, John Wick was not that hit.

I like revenge movies a lot. It’s a good, simple, primal theme, but this movie has the odds stacked against it thematically in that while Wick is wronged by some lightweight hoods, he himself, as explained in the movie, is the single biggest driving factor in the successful crime empire of a Russian mafia don, so how can you really, truly root for someone responsible for so much misery and death – presumably, the untold backstory of the Wick character would involve the murders of lots of good people, as well as criminal competitors. I found it a bit of a struggle to maintain my pathos for this kind of character, especially given that the ensuing movie is set up by the theft of his classic car, and the murder of his new puppy. Hard to weigh those against his prior life. I just didn’t buy any of this character work.

That aside, the movie is largely lacking in story. The plot is as basic as you could possibly write, and much of the running time is simply Wick killing and fighting in between plot points that have seen pretty much everywhere before. Russian crime boss? Check. An army of extremely killable minions? Check. And some of the dialogue is horrendous – in fact, much of Wick’s dialogue involves repeating what another character has just said to him. The action is also pretty standard. I’ve seen better, but I’ve seen worse, but again, I’ve seen all this before.

What surprised me was the inclusion of an odd conceit – I won’t spoil anything, but it involves “The Continental”. I’m sure the writer felt this was a pretty clever little device, but I found it to be ridiculously trite and comic booky, and it distracted me whenever it appeared. It took the movie from a revenge thriller, to something like an adaptation of a ho-hum, standard Mark Millar comic adaptation. I didn’t see the need for it. There’s definitely a need for something in this movie to break up the monotony of its story, but “The Continental” wasn’t it.  I wanted to like the movie, but in the end it falls flat.


© 2015 Andrew Hope

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