One would think that the overarching theme of this flick would be redemption by revenge, at least from most of the murmurs I heard during/after the screening, as well as read online.
However, no one redeems themselves here. Someone who’s stopped living, and is trying to deal with loss, is given a cruel jolt to get back to in terms of life, and ironically, that living is made possible by killing.
However, to quote an oft-repeated cliché, this time it’s personal.
This is almost like a step-child of movies that are in on the joke of sending genres up (like ‘Shoot ’em up’), that it is extremely entertaining since it is done right, just the way that Clive Owen vehicle was, watch John Wick online for free but as serious as those movies that are not self-aware of the genre (more on that ahead in this piece).
Wick the character is so much in the shadows already by the time the movie begins, that one almost dreads it becoming a parody of itself, something that John Cusack or Nicolas Cage does, with bigger budgets and better (at least on paper) film-makers (Paul Schrader’s making the latest Cage vehicle, that still might go DTV).
To me, that is one of the major achievements of this particular flick – not succumbing to how easy it is to churn something out, and let it languish on a disc without making it cinema-worthy. First-time directors (one of them strangely uncredited) Chad Stahelski (listing those movies that seem to be close cousin of this one – stunt-work on Safe, Blitz, Faster, Ninja Assassin, Mr./Mrs. Smith, The Mechanic and Constantine – another reference for this coming up) and David Leitch (stunt-work on Ninja Assassin, The Bourne Legacy, Bangkok Dangerous, Mr./Mrs. Smith, The Mechanic, Constantine) make this genre their own, making us wish that they do more movies in this genre, in addition to quite possibly make a strong sequel, or series of sequels to this one.
So many are gonna walk out remembering Reeves and the stunts on this one, and they’d be right too, but this one also needs to be remembered for how great Michael Nyqvist is, and he has not got such a meaty role since his turn in the original girl with the dragon tattoo.
He has as many scenes as Reeves does, and is a strong presence throughout, taking care not to chew up the scenery (and he sure can), and evoking great memories of his fantastic final mano-a- mano fight in the parking garage with Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in ‘Mission Impossible: Ghost protocol’. The fights in this one are a companion piece to that particular encounter, strange though it may sound.
The always great gun-fu stunt-work is accompanied by impeccable production design, sumptuous cinematography and perfect metal soundtrack.
Both the helmers and their lead’s work on ‘Constantine’ seems to have given them the license to borrow liberally from both the look and some of the concepts in ‘Constantine’ (concept of neutral ‘hotel’ ground for assassins in this one was borrowed heavily, even placing Lance Reddick and Ian McShane in Djimon Hounsou’s shoes).
Speaking of comparisons, Adrianna Paclicki’s assassin is as bad as Mireille Enos’s assassin in ‘Sabotage’, and in a good way.
Every stunt sequence is minimalist, blunt and brutal, doesn’t go on for longer than it has to, and respects every stunt-performer. Each performer who takes a hit, in our eyes, is seen to feel the hit, even an explosion.
That way, we see the damage actual violence does, and this could also make a great case for why is should not be used as a resort (though I’m not sure most would feel that way). This is how each action scene, no matter what the movie, should be composed and (ha ha) executed, otherwise it has the danger for not allowing the impact or consequence, to be felt.
Look-wise, and action set-piece wise, this also has many things in common with both ‘Payback’ and ‘Safe’, and makes all of them look good, since the comparison is fair and complimentary. I still hold the other to be superior works, but this is high up there as well.
Willen Dafoe and Lance Reddick could’ve been given more to do, and McShane shines in the 2 scenes he gets. Alfie Allen plays another d!ck here, and people who hate him from ‘GOT’ will be allowed to regurgitate those emotions here.
In spite of the fact that the cuts to the gore and violence are minimal in the region I watched this in, the body that did said changes makes up for those omissions by posting a HUGE anti-smoking warning on screen, in bright white large CAPPED font (the movie’s almost entirely dark, so you can imaging how we all had to squint during those sequences), that completely detracts from anything that might be happening on screen for the duration that any character lights up, or has a smoke in hand.
Therefore, I will NOT recommend a local theatrical viewing, and instead suggest that this be viewed theatrically in regions that retain both the Rating as well as do not have on-screen diversions during its runtime.
One more thing – the prologue, and the loopback to it, were completely unnecessary narrative potholes, IMO, though the post-loopback was kinda relevant and gratifying.
Source: sesht – imdb