Saturday Matinee 2017 04: John Wick

john-wick-posterIf you’re looking for a realistic movie, keep looking. If you’re looking for an entertaining rollick, have a look at this. It’s on the movie channels at present.

Keanu Reeves is the title character, John Wick, and he’s the guy with whom you simply do not want to get crosswise. He has retired from a career in murder and mayhem and lives quietly and introspectively by himself with his adorable dog, his Boss 429 (the first choice of cars for low-profile, off-the-grid operators, naturally!) and the memories of his deceased wife, Helen (played in flashback by Bridget Moynihan).

The beagle puppy wasn’t just any irresistable pooch, but a posthumously-delivered gift from his sainted wife.

This contemplative isolation is interrupted when the spoiled, worthless kid of a Russian organized crime figure (it’s Hollywood, the bad guy has to be someone without an Association for Advancement or Anti-Defamation League or Council Of…) takes a shine to his classic Mustang. In the end, Wick ends up with a beating, and Little Ivan ends up with his car.

And oh, yeah, they murder his dog. Just in case you had any doubts about who the bad guys were. The rest of the movie is gold-plated, ultra-violent revenge fantasy.

Acting and Production

Keanu Reeves makes Wick about as believable as anyone can make such a unidimensional cutout. His athletic ability is taxed more than his ability to emote in close up as he throws, shoots, stabs, slings, skewers, slices and dices armies of doomed criminal mooks, often applying several types of brutality to the same target at once.

 

Most of the other actors exist either to support him or to be killed in grisly, spectacular, choreographic fashion. Willem Dafoe plays the sort of creepy character that occurs when directors specify that the writers write a part for Willem Dafoe!

Reeves has come a long way and has taken some interesting action roles. At least here, he’s not trying to act Japanese, as he did in 47 Ronin, a movie about a Japanese historical event that had highly consequential cultural impact. (47 Ronin is another movie that we thought we had reviewed in this space, but hadn’t). He pulls together the dichotomy of the title character’s and his opponents’ refined, beautiful surroundings and their tendency to violent action.

The directors were first-time-out major-pic guys who had worked as 2nd Unit directors and, perhaps most importantly in this stunt and effects extravaganza, in the stunt world. They delivered a hell of a movie against a $20 million budget.

Because of the puppy’s grisly end in the movie, the dog actor had to show up at the Oscars for proof of life. Here it is:

You’d have your tail between your legs around that crowd, too. Where do Hollywood types turn when they run out of jailbait?

The film has that currently popular dark cinematography — it’s not something you watch happily on a small screen wth the lights on; put it on the largest screen you’ve got, in a darkened room.

As you might have guessed from the picture above, Wick learns the lesson of trying to be low profile with a classic Mustang Boss 429, and spends the rest of the movie with a similarly classic Chevelle SS.

Watch this one with your best dog curled up by you and a beer in your hand, or a gun in your hand to laser-cartridge the bad guys (combining the gun and the beer in the hand can lead to bad consequences, like spilled beer for example. Not recommended — pick one or t’other).

Accuracy and Weapons

Do not look for accuracy here; it’s no less fantasy than the Harry Potter series, at least inasmuch as firearms, knives, and hand-to-hand personal combat are depicted. Choreography, not combat. But it’s fun.

 

Reeves worked very hard to master the martial arts moves and tactical shooting skills he displays in this cult hit. There are videos around of him prepping for this role, and for the sequel, about to hit the big screen, he sought out a bunch of live fire instruction and developed into a skilled practical/combat two-gun shooter.

The bottom line

John Wick was never positioned as Oscar bait, but it put asses in theater seats, and so it got the ultimate seal of approval from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: a sequel. We doubt the sequel can bear up under the expectations fans of the first bring to it, because the first was a really entertaining film. Don’t take it seriously, just enjoy the movie. It begins with a man who has retired from a career in murder and mayhem and lives quietly and introspectively by himself with his dog, his car, and his memories. What could go wrong?

And what can you do to get ready for the sequel? Watch the first John Wick!

For more information

These sites relate to this particular film.

  • Amazon.com DVD page:

https://www.amazon.com/John-Wick-Digital-Keanu-Reeves/dp/B00OV3VG96/

It’s also available as a digital rental/sale product:

https://www.amazon.com/John-Wick-Keanu-Reeves/dp/B00T484DKC/

  • IMDB page:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2911666/

  • IMFDB page:

http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/John_Wick

  • Rotten Tomatoes review page (85%):

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/john_wick

  • Infogalactic  page:

https://infogalactic.com/info/John_Wick

  • History vs. Hollywood Page. (n/a).

39 thoughts on “Saturday Matinee 2017 04: John Wick

  1. Nynemillameetuh

    Hognose, there’s a little Aussie gem of a film entitled “The Rover” about retrieving a stolen car (amongst other things). It makes a few statements on social/moral breakdown without resorting to the usual tropes favored by the enemy media. The action is minimal yet brutal, realistic enough (no John Woo gun ballet), and the setting works. I think you’d enjoy it.

    1. RH

      I’ll second the recommendation for The Rover. Grim, stark, and brutal. I would actually consider it to be a spiritual sequel to the original Mad Max.

  2. Steve M.

    I saw this last year after hearing several people rave about it. A lot. It was entertaining. It wasn’t quite as good as the aforementioned people said it was, but I assumed that going into it.

    I’m not fan of the dark cinematography that Hognose mentioned.

  3. Cap'n Mike

    Im glad the dog is OK but what about proof of life for the Boss 429???

    Joking aside, though the charecters describe the car as a Boss 429, but the car in the film is really a 1969 Mach 1 or GT without the stripes.
    The tell is the hood scoop, as the Boss 429 had a ginormous one.

    I obviously spent too much time in my youth learning the minute details of and drooling over rare musclecars I will never be able to afford.

    1. Hognose Post author

      When I was co-owner of an FBO at Beverly Airport one of my regular avgas customers was a guy with a blue Boss 429. Yeah that was nine kinds of crime, to sell him leaded gas for his car.

      1. Cap'n Mike

        Good man
        The huge valves in the heads of that shotgun motor needs real fuel.
        You will find your reward in Heaven Hognose;)

  4. Aesop

    As noted before, Chad Stahelski was Keanu Reeves’ stunt double from waaaaay back (and speaking personally, a helluva nice guy).
    Stunt man as director, and you get one kick-ass action-revenge flick, heavy on his strong points (and, given his limited acting skills, probably heavy on Reeves’ best abilities as well).

    Win-win.

    Or, as Ted Logan would say, “Eeeeeeeeexcellent! Party on, dudes!”

  5. Hayabusa

    Have nothing to add to what Hognose said, other than John Wick was the cinematic equivalent of devouring a large bucket of buttered popcorn: you know it’s just empty calories, no nutritional value at all, can’t possibly be good for you… but DAMN it just tastes so good and it’s just so damn FUN to keep devouring…

    The nightclub massacre scene is a particular guilty pleasure for me.

    On the plus side, Keanu’s weapons handling skills show that he at least TRIES to do it right, so from the technical aspect is not completely ridiculous. Some of the videos that have emerged of Keanu doing 3-gun training in preparation for the sequel indicate that he may actually be developing some serious SKILLZ…

  6. James Sullivan

    An excellent movie. I watched it a couple of nights ago. Besides Keanu, it’s got a lot of great but lesser known actors (the kind that pop up everywhere). It even had an Easter Egg:

    Toward the beginning of the movie, before the Puppycide, when Wick is putting the Mustang through its paces, the security guard in the truck who lets him in is reading ‘Shibumi’ by Trevanian. Kind of a broad hint with a wink.

    1. LSWCHP

      I suspect Mr Reeves might have discovered the pleasures of the Way of the Gun. I wonder what Matt Damon and other Hollywood anti-gun nuts would say about this.

      And as for JW, good wholesome innocent fun. I loved it and I intend to see the sequel.

      1. Toastrider

        Reeves is something of an odd duck in Hollywood. He CAN act, but it’s hard — he seems to have a natural tendency towards stoicism, which means he can’t emote worth a damn. Supposedly, he lives a (by Hollywood standards) ascetic life off set, and has a rep for cutting his OWN salary in films so that a film can get better quality talent in other areas.

        A running gag is the ‘Sad Keanu’ image, a candid shot someone got of him sitting on a park bench by himself. Reeves himself is annoyed by the attention it garnered (I imagine him exasperatedly saying ‘I’M NOT DEPRESSED GUYS, STOP STAGING INTERVENTIONS’). But he did find the meme itself to be pretty funny.

        1. James Sullivan

          I understand that he has a reputation for being extremely generous with his time and money.

        2. Sommerbiwak

          Yep. In interviews Keanu Reeves is all friendly and smiling, showing emotions, but when the camera rolls (or the hard disk drive clicks nowadays) he presents a stoic poker face. For some roles that fits like jaded killer or samurai. Others not so much.

          1. Looserounds.com

            He is an 80s action movie star. Just a little bit late for the 80s
            I think he knows that and is happy with it. I am happy with it because I like him and his action films.

            Street Kings is a movie of his from a while ago that I really recommend. And unbeknown to most of my readers of looserounds, I am a film fanatic and write about film at other websites and have helped with making a few small independent films, Though I don’t mentioned it but for rare instances. Movies are a passion of mine, I could talk about guns and movies non-stop till my dying second and not consider it wasted time.

  7. Greg

    “John Wick is a proportionate & just response to a puppy being killed during a home invasion.”

    1. Toastrider

      Every dog owner I’ve ever met who’s seen John Wick says his reaction is entirely justified.

      Yes, that includes me :D

      1. Winston Smith

        Greg and Toastrider, love your comments.

        Sounds fun, but I wont watch a movie where the dog dies.
        I was traumatized in early childhood by Old Yellar.

        1. James

          Greg &Toast,I agree,pets are just family members and thus deserve the same loyalty,I will say though do not have the skills Wick has to exact justice but would find a way.

          I saw this movie awhile back and liked it,glad the little puppy made it to the ceremony as his character was the trigger,seems he has a new pooch in trailer for part 2.

  8. Torres

    No words about the weapons used in the movie? I saw pistols by HK (P30L), War Sport LVOA Rifles, and Salient Arms Glocks among others…

    1. Hognose Post author

      Go to the IMFDB link at the end. They explore the guns of John Wick in great depth and detail, even as to which “MP5” is an HK and which is a cheap-ass Coharie clone. Everything they used was, as I understand it, a “package” from The Specialists Ltd. (My old team medic used to be an exec with that company in NYFC, but has moved on).

  9. Hillbilly

    I watched the movie and liked it. Kind of a Red Dawn type of movie nothing great about it just a fun movie. I liked the line about the Boggeyman.
    I think he’s been training with guns for a while as he showed some pretty slick pistol skills in Street Kings too although it could of been movie magic.

  10. Butch

    I have owned late 1960s Mustangs. I have owned beagles.

    John Wick’s response was totally justified.

  11. Looserounds.com

    I would not call this a “cult film” It found its audience immediately upon release. A follow up a couple years later with a bigger budget is not something you get with a cult film.

    1. Sommerbiwak

      It depends. Most of the time Id say, yes not a cult film when a sequel is made. OTOH there is the second Boondock Saints for example.

  12. Steve from Downtown Canada

    We finally get your thoughts on John Wick! Like you I enjoyed it very much and I was happy to hear that it got a sequel. Reeves may get knocks for his acting but I appreciate that the guy throws himself into every roll…you know, a professional. Hard to find in Hollyweird these days.

  13. Haxo Angmark

    another waste of scarce electrons. When is Hognose going to start reviewing movies of substance, like Sicario, The Cruel Sea, and etc., instead of superficial special effects crap?

  14. Y.

    This sounds dumb.

    I liked ‘History of Violence’ more, it was at least a tad believable story about someone retired from the mob. Good acting too..

    1. Sommerbiwak

      A movie made by a stunt man. Of course plot and drama are rather thin and only the excuse for the action scenes. Sometimes you just want to have fun. Although I personally have not gotten around to watch Wick in one continuous viewing, as I have so far only watched parts of it when I switched in on it on TV. So far it looked like good action scenes, thread bare story. But I expect as much. Sometimes one just wants simple nearly brainless entertainment. But then I can even enjoy Phantom Commando for its trashyness. ;-) But thisbis of course a matter of (bad) taste.

      History of Violence on the other hand is real drama with a really really good actor. It is a Cronenberg film so more on the art side of things. Although Mortensen and Reeves have in common being very not mainstream hollywood actors in their habits.

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