Pick of the Week – March 30-April 5, 2015

I enjoy a good action movie.  Lately, though, I’ve found that I’m getting tired of the overblown CGI-fests (Although, I am SO THERE when Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out May 1st).  I want to see practical stunt work and action choreography that actually allows me to follow what the heck is going on.

My Pick for this week fits the bill nicely.  John Wick was release in 2014 without much fanfare but picked up some good reviews (It’s running at a very nice 83% positive on Rottentomatoes.com), particularly from action fans.  I went into it with almost no knowledge beyond that Keanu Reeves was the star.

Let me make it clear that I have nothing against Keanu Reeves.  I liked the Bill & Ted films as well as Speed.  Actually, Speed makes for a good comparison here.  Keanu Reeves may be the lead in that film, but he’s not particularly interesting.  His job is to be the stalwart action hero, while others around him get to show more personality.  Viewers of that film remember Sandra Bullock’s performance or Dennis Hopper’s “Pop quiz, hot shot” line more than anything Keanu Reeves does or says in that movie.

John Wick is much the same.  Keanu Reeves plays the title character, a retired hitman who takes revenge on a Russian crime family (and anyone else who gets in his way) after they…well…they do something you should never do, particularly to a man already mourning the death of his wife. 

Frankly, Wick the character isn’t all that interesting.  Yes, he’s very good at what he does, and it’s a lot of fun watching him battle his way through waves of Russian mobsters.  But really he’s not much much more lively than The Terminator.

What makes John Wick so interesting to me (and leads me to recommend it) is the world of hitmen that the film creates.  There are several very clever touches about how hitmen operate around New York City, a place large enough to support its own hitman-centric economy.  It’s not too far off to compare it to the wizarding world of the Harry Potter films – a world that operates within and alongside ours that we’re just not aware of. 

Also, while Wick himself is a revenge-driven killing machine, the film is full of tongue-in-cheek humor and had me laughing at several points.  It may be John Wick’s movie, but the supporting cast, many of whom are played by familiar faces, are the ones having all the fun.  

- Alan Decker

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