Saturday, November 8, 2014

John Wick, reviewed by Andrea Bergen, who is not this film’s target audience

John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves, directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, Summit Entertainment, LLC – Released October 24, 2014

As one half of a (mostly) democratic marriage, it’s sometimes my duty to sit through a testosterone-fueled movie with my hubby.  You know the type:  Ninety minutes crammed with violence, rude language and/or nudity, and a plot line that can be fully articulated in a single sentence. 

There’s just no denying that many guys get a charge out of this stuff while women are left shaking their heads and saying, “That’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back” … though occasionally an action flick will rise above the rubble.

The plot line for John Wick is indeed basic:  John Wick (Keanu Reeves) got married and left the hit man’s life behind, but his wife died and leaves him a pet dog to remember her by (seriously).  Crime boss’s stupid cocky son steals Wick’s car and maims the dog.  Wick retaliates in true “Now-you’ll-find-out-exactly-who-you’re-messing-with” style. 

Okay, that was three sentences, but the official movie website does sum it up in one:  “An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him with New York City as his bullet-riddled background.”

So how did this movie stack up?  Did it contain all the proper elements?

Adrianne Palicki as leather-clad female nemesis
·      Vigilante, lone wolf main character bent on revenge at any cost?  Check.
·      Main character has high-level combat training and strength and reflexes bordering on the super-human?  Check.
·      Sexy, 120-pound female nemesis with perfect makeup and wearing tight leather suit?  Check.  
·      Old friend who comes out of the woodwork to help at the risk of his own life?  Check.
·      Cover-your-eyes, bone-crunching, blood-spattering violence?  Check.

Par for the course so far, so let’s move on to the real question:  Was there anything in this movie worth uncovering my eyes for?

Actually I thought there was.

The directors found some creative ways to give Wick’s character a splash of depth.  His interactions with the police, for example, and the coolly efficient way he deals with twelve bodies in his house.  Also, the stand-out moment when the crime boss gets the call telling him what his son has done to Wick:  let’s just say he can’t muster the usual type of evil overlord sang-froid.

Another plot element I liked was the Continental Hotel.   The Hotel is a neutral-ground, 4-star hideout for bad guys where amenities do not include pool and sauna.  More like a 24-hour doctor service for when you drag yourself in the door with a deep abdominal wound and can’t go to a regular hospital.  The suave concierge (Lance Reddick) doesn’t bat an eye as he washes all manner of underworld dirty laundry, so to speak. 

I was also intrigued by the theme of the gangsters’ brotherhood that ran through the movie. 

On the other hand, I don’t think I can call my review complete unless I also comment on the (very clichéd) roles women inhabit in this genre, this movie included.  You have your:

·      Sexy female nemesis with out-of-proportion fighting skills
·      Sexy, brainless female attendant
·      Sweet, innocent family member of main character
·      Simpering idiot who practically pees her pants and runs off upon seeing any violence

Why do the scripts always have the sexy nemesis out-fighting male counterparts who are equally well trained and probably double her weight?  Can’t they throw us a bone here?  Can’t she at least smudge her makeup in her life-or-death fights?  Or maybe there could be a tear in her otherwise perfectly form-fitting black leather outfit?  (That’s got marketing possibilities!)    

Personally, I prefer women like Rene Russo’s character in Lethal Weapon.  She got to kick butt right alongside Mel Gibson without being super-human or wearing a leather suit.   That’s my kind of gal.

As for the other three women’s roles I mentioned:  They’re so antiquated I won’t even bother.

Overall then, after having explored its clichés and creativity, is this movie a good “dime in the bank” for the next chick flick you want to persuade hubby to see?  

Considering its genre, I was only expecting to give this movie one star.  Having seen it, though, I give it a full two and a half.  And by the way, if you’re wondering what the male species thought, I will share my husband’s review. He was stirred from his almost universal movie rating of “It was decent” to a sensational “I liked it.”

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Andrea Bergen received her Bachelor of Environmental Sciences from the University of Guelph.  After having worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 12 years, she is investigating other career opportunities. Andrea has been an avid reader since childhood and enjoys both intellectual and escapist reading.  As a sometime movie buff, she is also fascinated with the process of bringing a story to life on the big screen.  She plays the flute and has memorized her library card number.


See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Stouffville, Sudbury, Toronto, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

6 comments:

  1. thank you, andrea. i like action flicks and am moved to add this to my growing list of "must sees". but even if i never get around to watching it, your review provided enough entertainment for a rainy afternoon. i look forward to reading more of your work :)

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  2. Your basic action movie. Nothing special, but still a movie worth watching. The plot only exists to generate the action and it does that fairly well. Perhaps a bit too much gun play. It definitely would have benefited from a slightly greater variety of action styles, but there are still plenty of satisfying death scenes.

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  3. The Flash won't need to overpower you to wow you. The show has so much heart and so many appealing characters.

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  4. I like The Flash at this stage a lot more than I did Arrow. It helps that many of the key creative people worked together on the previous show and have learned some lessons about what does and doesn't work in a superhero TV show.

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  5. It doesn't ask for too much of its audience except to sit back and let the new adventure unfold. And, did I mention it was fun?

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  6. He's a little different from many contemporary comic superheroes, though, in that he rarely jumps off the screen. He's more subtle, which distributes the drama load around the rest of the cast.

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