Wednesday, 28 January 2015

JOHN WICK (2014) Film Review

Check it out... if you're a fan of fast-paced, energetic and immensely entertaining action films, as John Wick is perhaps the most immediately enthralling and fun action film of the past twelves months

Skip it... if you can not stand overly simplistic films which contain little metaphysical or metaphorical significance, as John Wick is virtually everything it claims to be and nothing more; perhaps to its advantage or detriment, depending on your point of view

John Wick poster
"Wick throws itself into the ring with a vengeance, and captures one's attention from the second it begins."

In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.
Characterized by its ostentatious and flamboyant charisma, John Wick is a film that holds little concern for the intricacies of its own being; concerned with only a surface level plot, and characters which contain meaningful but relatively cliched relationships with one-another, the film isn't overtly radical. A one-dimensional exploit in blood, guns and arms, directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch's vivacious theatrical output garners entertainment, but lacks substance to its individual characters. The good guys are the good guys, the bad guys vice versa, and moral dilemma is hypothetical but never truly present. A nuanced, spectacular but forthright addition into a genre where 80's reference flicks are high in abundance.
John Wick is also one of the best movies of the year by a vast margin.
Whereas other films of the same likes, such as the strangely compelling Dan Steven's picture The Guest, have failed to both fully encapsulate immensely entertaining, well-framed action, as well as an attitude and individual persona that is both refreshing but nostalgic, Wick throws itself into the ring with a vengeance, and captures one's attention from the second it begins. The film follows the titular protagonist, a former mob hitman, whose life is torn apart after the death of his beloved wife; the sole individual responsible as for why he left his "respectable" profession. Her dying gift to John is a puppy named Daisy, who she believes will allow him the opportunity to grieve properly. After the son of Wick's former employer comes over to his home and beats him up, steals his car and kills the aforementioned Daisy, Wick decides to come out of his retirement to serve a healthy dose of revenge towards the individual responsible for furthering the pain he resides within.
From there, John Wick becomes the perfect action flick. It doesn't concern itself with anything more than surface level jargon, and cuts straight to the blatant point; death must be dealt. Blood requires spilling. Pain demands to be felt. Fight coordinator Jonathan Eusebio handles the difficult and immensely explosive action sequences with gusto and effectiveness, each shot of the gun Wick hold's proving efficient and meaningful. Once one has moved past the inhumane accuracy John seems to possess, it's difficult to criticise John Wick for being anything less than euphoric; a giddy escapade that revels in its own fantasy. Something that any and all can appreciate (at least the vast majority) for its own wicked heart and lack of sensibility. It's wild, loud and boisterous, and sticks out shamelessly from the pack currently in theatres; whilst the pretensions preside within Birdman, and Angelina Jolie revels in her torture porn with Unbroken, John Wick is a burst of energy that contains little metaphysical implication. It simply wishes to exist, and for that, I am grateful.
Making a pleasant return to form is cinematographer Jonathan Sela, whose past work has only brought about anger and displeasure (namely his work within 2013's atrocious A Good Day To Die Hard). In a year of tightly shot and edited action segments, The Raid 2 and The Guest being perhaps the most applaudable featuring such, John Wick is the most coherent and visually competent available, the camera moving but slightly, and maintaining wide and medium angles to provide as much optical information as is possible. The directors are not intent on besmirching carefully planned fight sequences which contain impressive choreography from all involved by utilizing incoherent camerawork which doesn't capture the details involved in the martial arts and stunt work being performed. The editing, by Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, is just as impressive, and unlike numerous other recent action films, features coherent and practiced cuts that don't stilt or muddle the carefully orchestrated conflicts. It's refreshing to see directors, cinematographers, editors and fight coordinators willing to embrace the size and extremity of what they're doing, and not cover it up with visual or post-production fluff.
Whilst John Wick was never intended to be anything more than a quality throwback action flick, it contains a world and characters that are lively and full of life. Unlike pictures I've seen recently which have failed to encapsulate a living, breathing universe, John Wick contains size, scope and ambition. We're introduced to a city teeming with mobsters, gangsters and criminals of all size and shape, many of them having associated with Wick before his retirement. It's not just random individuals nodding to him; characters with personality (some more so than others) engage in conversations alongside John over his current predicament, meaning it feels as if we're riding along with the most popular kid at school, and we get to see the large scale of the criminal underground that exists within the sprawling metropolis of the film's version of New York. Night clubs, hotels, skyscrapers, all of them belonging to the rough individuals who utilize violence and criminal activity to benefit their own being. It's an expansive world that feels alive with action, atmosphere and personality.
The settings lay the groundwork for some insanely impressive fight sequences, namely those which occur in the second act of the picture. None of them overstay their welcome, and despite the high quantity of such scenes, they are never so numerous as to lose their value; rare for a film of this calibre. Visual effects are rarely utilized to enhance anything, the practicality of the stunts applaudable and worthy of commendation. It is here where John Wick finds its footing, and despite any reservations about simplism in terms of plot, it's hard to deny the breathtakingly-versatile creativity on show is utterly terrific. Wick's approach to taking out his enemies seems natural and fluent, the variables on offer in terms of how he achieves moving past any given individual innumerable and astounding. Whether it be a clear shot to the head; a choking; rundown by a car; stabbing (lots of such); punching; kicking; more shooting; John Wick has an answer for any situation. Whilst being slim in terms of plot, John Wick also contains less than admirable performances, but they somewhat prove beneficial for the picture. The central performance from Keanu Reeves is played without a smidge of emotion, part a few select moments, in classic Reeves fashion (go back and watch The Matrix, and tell me that he was exceptional in that), but he is still immensely entertaining to watch on screen. The supporting ensemble is generic, and apart from a wonderful guest appearance from William Dafoe, aren't all that unique. That said, they're still greatly fun to watch, namely Alfie Allen as the instigator of the plot, Iosef Tarasov. The cast lose themselves in their roles, and look like they're having a great time of it. So why shouldn't we? I've seen reviews of all the major action flicks of 2014, and many of aforementioned releases have found acclaim within the masses, accumulating wide-spread applause. People applauding the creativity and fun of movies like The Guest and The Raid 2, and whilst I have enjoyed both of those picture, I've never been able to fully lose myself in their action and self-indulgent pleasure. John Wick sees me standing up in congratulations, as I've finally found the 2014 action film which not only immerses me, but sees me laughing, cheering and fist-pumping alongside all the intense and impressive physical drama. Whilst not original nor seeking anything more than the surface level elaborations, John Wick contains enough extravagant avidity that its magic is never lost from beginning to end.
John wasn't exactly the boogeyman. He's the one you sent to kill the fucking boogeyman.

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