John Wick (2014)

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*. This movie surprised me. Not in a good way, of course. I mean that I was expecting it to be bad, despite being well received by critics, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad.
*. How many times can they make this movie? It’s the same gangster-going-rogue-and-taking-on-the-syndicate storyline that we know so well from all the Parker films and their progeny (Point Blank, Get Carter, Payback, etc.). Those films, however, had more going for them: a powerful sense of style, for example, or a commanding lead performance. This movie has nothing but clichés.
*. Nothing at all. Absolutely nothing. It is simply one action-film cliché after another. John Wick is a superhero tough guy carrying the cross of some tragic loss. He drives a cool vintage muscle car. He hits everyone he shoots at while no one can even wing him (unless he’s wearing a bulletproof vest). He does a cool-guy walk through a disco. He throws away his gun at the end to take on the chief bad guy mano a mano (“no more guns, no more bullets, just you and me John”).
*. Even the supporting cast are clichés. Michael Nyqvist is the foreign heavy. Willem Dafoe is the tough ally. And Ian McShane is still playing Teddy Bass from Sexy Beast.
*. It could have been meant as a parody. And it could have been really funny, what with Keanu Reeves in the title role displaying his usual unemotive grace. But aside from a couple of slightly silly scenes I don’t think they were trying for parody. They just ended up with silly lines like: “When Helen died, I lost everything. Until that dog arrived on my doorstep. A final gift from my wife. That moment I received some semblance of hope, an opportunity to grieve unalone. Your son took that from me, stole that from me, killed that from me!” Unalone? Killed that from me? Well, I guess his Russian is better than mine.
*. Who read this script and thought it was a project worth putting money into? I was thinking it must have been based on a graphic novel that would, in turn, have ultimately derived from Sin City. But apparently it wasn’t based on anything except every other rogue gangster movie ever made.
*. Having some interesting villains would have helped. Does anyone care when the cringing Iosef is finally put out of his misery? Dean Winters is wasted in a nothing part. Ms. Perkins is just a generic bad girl. And I was never sure how I was supposed to take Michael Nyqvist’s Viggo. He seemed so reluctant to be involved in any of this.
*. If it had been a great, or in any way original, straight-up action film it might still have been salvageable. But the action/fight scenes have nothing exceptional about them. Reeves is not a great screen fighter, and the gun play just looks like a first-person shooter video game. I remember thinking this before we get to the scene where one of the gang members is actually playing a first-person shooter video game. There is no sense of disjunction. I mean, the camera angles are all the same and the CGI head shots are identical. Witness:

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*. So John loses an adorable beagle puppy and picks up a pit bull at the end. Why? So he can have a real bad-ass partner for the sequel, I guess. How much better it would have been if he’d gotten another beagle. That would have been a sequel to look forward to.

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