Film Review: John Wick

I had wanted to start this review with a clever line about how Mindy Marin, casting director of Jack Reacher, was sat crying somewhere having chosen an ill fitting Tom Cruise for her title role. A prejudiced lined based upon the fact that podcast reviews of John Wick hinted at Keanu Reeves appearing as a bigger, tougher and more realistic figure head than anything Cruise had achieved and that, whether tonally suited to the role, visually he would have been perfect.

And then I saw the film and I can my preplanned opening fell totally apart. Reeves just doesn’t work for me in John Wick, let alone substituting him into any other role. John Wick is just a mess of a film that feels like it’s trying to cram too many ideas and styles into one film without enough experience, or expanded viewing to make it all work.

Arcade Gun Game - John Wick

Going back to Keanu, visually he is distinct, you look at him and you see an almost religious devoting to his beliefs. His has this quiet, unassuming conviction behind his eyes. He appears to echo the calmness of a monk. And yet at the same time there is just a twisted hint of aggression in his voice. It’s not the obviously dark and angry tone of a typical “bad guy” but rather, just a brief aftertaste of strength and power that frames every methodical and planned word. And it leaves you completely believing that this isn’t a man to mess with.

And then people do, and the fighting starts. And the film becomes a complete farce against the character we’ve been introduced for. Directed by first timers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch who actually come from a stunt background, with Stahelski even working as Reeves stunt double on The Matrix films, you would expect there to be a real poetry and flow to the fights and there just isn’t. It all feels very choppy, overly quick and the ludicrous amount of almost impossibly angled clean hits and head shots far too unrealistic. It almost feels like every bullet kills a target and the longer the shot out went on, the more I got this overriding vision of the old plastic gunned arcade video games. It just doesn’t feel real, and breaks all bonds you have to the film as it descends into almost a mickey mouse cartoon.

Keanu Reeves & Willem Dafoe - John Wick

The film is also extremely slow and boring. It’s got a very formulaic plot. There is nothing new to get you interested and the pacing means it stands no chance of keeping you either. It changes speed from time to time, but not in an emotive way. All it ever does is just increase the tempo when the bullets fly before reverting back to a rather pedestrian walk while it talks it way through to the next fight. It never feels reflective, you never really get inside the characters. The big speeches, the conversations, that are designed to create the game of cat and mouse and explain the motives just feel light and superficial and simplistic, highlighting how out of place and context the fighting style is compared to everything else.

The other problem is the rest of the cast continue this miss match of ideas and styles and serve to just divide your focus too much. Willem Dafoe never inspired any trust and just left me feeling uneasy throughout. Alfie Allen is a bit too goofy to survive and Michael Nyqvist lacks the cold heartedness that his character demands you place in him. He’s just not twisted enough. The only character who feels shadowy and correct is Ian McShane but his part is so minor you can almost over look him anyway.

Liam Neeson - Taken (poster)

It’s such a shame that it doesn’t add together into a satisfying whole, because it’s individual elements could have come together to create something stunning and fresh in a genre that is getting stymied by ageing actors and franchises characters. Reeves brings constant methodical stillness to a hidden aggression well but lacks the touch of realism and belief that defined him in, and made, The Matrix films so good. The script needs to take more chances and be braver about it’s over all story and the editing and directing needs a firmer hand to make the film feel quicker and more engrossing.

There are already plans for a sequel, and it’s a character that has potential to grow into a dark timeline, but I just think from the basis of the first offering, John Wick mark two has a lot of work to do because I found mark one completely monotonous and totally forgetful.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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