Wednesday, January 21, 2015

John Wick Review

An important lesson I have learned during the last few years since I began exploring far more cinema than I ever had before is that there is no such thing as a bad genre. It doesn't exist. Men can say they don't like "chick flicks" all they want, but when they say those words they picture a really uninspired and predictable movie that would feature Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler. The truth is, a romantic comedy can be a wonderful and brilliant thing when it is crafted by people with actual talent, when it features a remarkable screenplay and the right actors playing roles perfectly suited to their abilities. Woody Allen films like Annie Hall and Manhattan file under the category of romantic comedies, as does Rob Reiner's fantastic When Harry Met Sally and the classic The Apartment by Billy Wilder. None of these amazing works deserve to be lumped into a single group classified as "chick flicks" and ignored by an entire gender, thus the reality is, I never truly dislike a genre but rather specific poorly made films.

The interesting this is, I didn't have this revelation due to the examples above as I have always had a soft spot for a well made romantic comedy. As odd as it seems as I am a 30 year old, the genre I was unfairly claiming to hate as a whole was actually action, as I had grown so damn weary of simply watching people with guns shoot at each other for two hours with no real story or substance to back it up. 

That all changed when I was told to watch the Indonesian action film The Raid: Redemption back in 2012. I likely rolled my eyes and dismissed the recommendation initially, but eventually I gave in expecting to see nothing special, a seen it all before display of bullets and bodies that would have me checking my watch more often than the screen in front of me. What director Gareth Evans did in that film nearly literally blew my mind and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor, and that's when it hit me: I didn't hate action films, I hated bad action films. When a project is placed into the right hands, even a display of bullets and bodies can be spellbinding stuff. 

Early in 2014 I went to the cinema to catch the sequel of that film, The Raid 2, and I fell even more in love with the bloodbaths created by Evans as I felt that the second installment was actually a step up from a first, an action crime drama masterpiece that managed to pull me in with dialogue and then kick my ass back out of the room with its incredible set pieces and choreography. The thing is, even as I was back into the idea of a great action film, I sort of relegated the possibility to those specific works and didn't consider something else entirely could do it for me in a similar fashion. Enter John Wick.

A film I dismissed at first glance, John Wick is just plain awesome. I could try to be verbose and eloquent about why I loved this movie, but truthfully it just kicks so much ass and it was made so expertly with such confidence and gorgeous cinematography that I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. The premise is incredibly simple: when we meet John Wick, he has just lost his wife to an undisclosed illness, but we quickly grasp it was an anticipated death and not a total surprise when John receives a gift from his wife posthumously, one last way to say I love you, an adorable puppy named Daisy as a companion in hopes to cure his loneliness. 

Three men enter John's home one night in hopes of stealing his car. They kill his puppy. It is totally, painfully heartbreaking. Yet soon after it was impossible not to smile watching this film. You know why?

You don't fuck with John Wick.

These men have taken all that John had left in the world, and thus he will make them pay. It's a beautiful and exciting thing, watching the hyper-violence unfold in such aesthetically appealing locations like a neon lit night club or the peaceful glow of a church. This is the difference between a film like this and one like American Sniper, as it might seem hypocritical for me to judge one for not valuing human life enough and on the other side be celebrating strewn out bodies and pools of blood. When you make a biopic based on real events and a real person, a certain sensitivity to morality and humanity must be conveyed to strike the perfect emotional balance of the narrative. When you make a film like John Wick, just kill every last piece of shit in the room and I will cheer like an idiot. 

It isn't as if I am some sort of monster, in fact I am anything but. In reality the concept of a gun being near me makes me beyond uncomfortable, and I wish people nothing but peace and harmony and happiness and safety. If I were to watch the news one morning and they happened to report on a story about a guy killing hundreds of people as an act of vengeance over a slain dog, I would think well shit, that's a tad overboard. Could anything so awful really be a just response to the death of a single pet?

In this world, the stylish, super cool and most importantly, fictional one occupied by John Wick? It not only felt just, it felt so god damn right. 

Keanu Reeves is awesome, Michael Nyqvist is ridiculous (in a good way), Theon Greyjoy is a friggin' creep and I am officially scared of the Baba Yaga. Watch John Wick as soon as possible.


1 comment:

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