John Wick : (2014)

Live and Let Die:

John Wick




In among all the endless mayhem I kept thinking about that damned pencil.  It just stuck with me for some reason.

Russian mobster Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) is trying to get it through to his thick, thuggish son Josef (Alfie Allen) just how unbelievably dangerous the out-of-retirement hit-man John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is:

“I once saw him kill three men in a bar with a pencil! WITH A FUCKING PENCIL!”

Well, I once saw Joe Pesci stab a guy in the neck with a pen.  That was in a bar, too.  Bars and writing implements, eh?  Another thing for me to worry about.  It was graphic and *ouch!* inducing but for some reason this seemed ten times worse.  What kind of pencil was it?  Did it have an eraser (boom-boom!)?  Why was he fiddling with this pencil – in a bar – when the bad guys attacked him?

This is an unbelievably violent revenge thriller.  Or is it?  I was going to go off on one and bore you to tears with a dissertation on why the violence in a Sam Peckinpah film is still unsettling and disturbing after nearly fifty years and why John Wick never once shocks you and eventually just leaves a viewer like this one bored.  But, you know– that wouldn’t be fair; because it sets out to do one thing and it does it perfectly:  if you are into this kind of soulless, cartoonish, video-game death and destruction then it succeeds admirably. It entertains.

Sure, there isn’t one single person in the film that you will give a toss about but that’s OK, because all the film’s love and affection is poured into the dog that sets off this rampage of vengeance.  Trust me, this dog is as cute as hell and when it was killed Wick was given my tacit approval to do whatever he felt like to get the bad guys – and I’m not even a dog person.

I suppose that once again we will get the arguments about whether or not screen violence is desensitizing us; but do you know what movie I kept thinking of all during this?

Live and Let Die.

Yep, you got it in one:  the 1973 first outing as James Bond for Roger Moore.  In its day it was every bit as superstylish as John Wick.  And me and my school mates all wanted to be able to afford to dress as cool as Bond did.  It was set in a fantasy world of spies where everybody and their mother knew who Bond was – how he got any spying done was a complete frigging mystery – just as everyone knows Wick and what he’s capable of.  There is even a hotel and bar just for assassins.  Pure comic book.  So please… let’s not get sidetracked with the ‘violence’.

And of course Reeves is even more challenged when it comes to emotive acting than the great Roger Moore.  Remember the Spitting Image puppet of him?  “Mr. Moore, show puzzlement by raising eyebrow number one. You’re thinking; raise eyebrow number two.  Now you’re amazed.  Raise both.” Well, Keanu makes Roger look like Olivier.  There’s a hilarious moment when someone says to him:  “I’ve never seen you like this before”.

What?  How the fuck do you make that out? His expression hasn’t changed once!

I like Reeves, though; and it’s good to see him back because this one has ‘franchise’ written all over it.

It also has the most astonishing first five minutes, like a Readers’ Digest condensed novel come to life. We meet John, we see his wife die and we see him greet an old comrade (Willem Dafoe) at a funeral.  We see him driving around in his Mustang and I found myself thinking that there was something wrong with my hearing.  One thing for sure is that Reeves didn’t have much trouble learning his lines. They must have taken up all of a page.

Another quibble:  Dafoe is offered $2 million to kill Wick.  Seriously?  Warren Oates was offered a million to bring in the head of Alfredo Garcia forty years ago and that guy missing a whole body.  Keanu is more dangerous than a room full of Bruce Lee, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Chuck Norris – and we know that even the dark is afraid of Chuck Norris.  Plus inflation?  $2 million?  Get real.

It is directed in a manner that would make John Woo proud by Chad Stahelski and an unaccredited David Leitch, who were both Reeves’s stunt men on the Matrix movies so you know that the action scenes will be good.

It’s not really my thing but if five guys killed with one bullet rocks your world then you are in for a treat.  And seriously:  it is really nice to see Keanu back.   



Author: Charley Brady

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1 Comment

  1. Your review pretty much sums the movie up for me Charley.

    Anyone who is into movies where the male star kicks arse will love it, actually this guy more than kicks arse he would literally chew up Rambo and spit him out in little pieces.

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