*. The DVD box tells us it’s “from the writer of John Wick.” That would be Derek Kolstad, who wrote all three John Wick movies. Did you know that? I didn’t. I also didn’t know why I’d care that a movie came from the writer of John Wick. I liked the John Wick movies well enough, but not because of anything in the scripts. Basically they’re expensive, state-of-the-art action fare, with the main driver of the franchise being the blank charisma of star Keanu Reeves. If you asked me to explain the plot of any of them to you I couldn’t, or remember more than a couple of lines of dialogue (both from Chapter 2, which I thought the best).
*. The link to John Wick though is a good heads-up for what’s on tap here. Lots of bone-jarring action of the hand-to-hand and weaponized variety. The director Ilya Naishuller I knew from the frantic Hardcore Henry, which I registered at the time as very much a work in the Wickian mode. So writer and director were a good match. Now for a star . . .
*. Bob Odenkirk? Well, at one point Liam Neeson was an unlikely action star too. Somewhat surprisingly Odenkirk doesn’t play the part for laughs at all, even of the dry style favoured by laconic men of action. He wanted to play the part earnestly and not ironic. This helps the movie sell its main twist, that the suburban Caspar Milquetoast with a semi-dad bod that is Hutch Mansell is actually a God of War. People flee from his tattoo. You don’t mess with (former) FBI accountants. Or “auditors.”
*. Silly as it sounds, Odenkirk actually makes it believable. He’s great. As an accountant though, why is it too much for Hutch to put his garbage bins out on time? A montage of his daily routine shows him always missing pick-up. I’ve never understood people who can’t manage things like this. Don’t they ever learn? Do they just forget? If he likes to sleep in, why not put it out the night before?
*. The humour then comes by way of this basic incongruity, which is compounded when we meet Hutch’s hard-boiled dad (Christopher Lloyd), who is just aching to get out of the retirement home so he can kick some ass. This is taking the geezer-action motif of movies like The Expendables and R.E.D. to its extreme, but it’s all good fun.
*. In a way, I wish they hadn’t gone so far. Nobody climaxes with the reveal of the fight on the city bus between Hutch and the gang of hoods. It’s violent and innovative, even avoiding any scoring throughout the best of it so as not to take away from the clanging and smacking of the sound effects. Compared to this, the big final-act gunfight, which Naishuller wanted to be more “poppy” and “colourful,” goes on far too long and just consists of the usual splattering of an army of mooks by Hutch, his pops, and his brother RZA. The way the chief bad guy, a Russian mobster named Yulian, is dispatched is satisfactory, but that’s the only good part.
*. The usual notes are struck. There are lots of incongruous music-video scenes, climaxing with a car chase to Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker.” Hutch sets a bunch of booby-traps for the final fight which we get to see all go off. Hell, they even borrowed some gold bars from the Wickiverse and gave Colin Salmon Ian McShane’s role. Meanwhile the plot plays out predictably but it still works, which is to its credit.
*. Odenkirk says something interesting on the commentary track when he remarks that Hutch is crossing his fingers hoping that Yulian will come out of the night club and chase after him. I thought he was hoping Yulian would walk away. I still think it may be ambiguous. I like it when a commentary suggests alternatives though.
*. Shot in Winnipeg so it was hellishly cold but you get some Canadian star power with an appearance by Michael Ironside. A personal favourite of mine and I didn’t even recognize him! Well, we all get older.
*. I enjoyed it. They weren’t re-inventing the genre here, but most of the action is pretty good, especially when it goes the John Wick route of playing off the use of makeshift weapons in different settings. Odenkirk is excellent, though nobody else plays up to his level. At the very least it can function as a kind of lower-rent placeholder until the next Wick movie comes out.
*. Will we be seeing more of Hutchie too? Things certainly seem to be set up for a run of sequels (Kolstad has even hinted at the possibility of a crossover with the Wick “universe”), and there’s even a bit of a teaser that plays in the middle of the end credits. Odenkirk expresses some concern over the tone a sequel might take given the direction this film goes in at the end. Obviously it would be a very different movie because they can’t spend all that time with misdirection in the set-up. But aside from that, they should be on autopilot now.