A Quick Look: John Wick (1.5/5)

In preparation for seeing John Wick: Chapter 2 later today, I watched the first one, and despite some decently crafted action sequences, it was really dull and really boring. This is incredibly disappointing, as I was expecting something at least somewhat good.

This movie’s lack of substance and unbelievably small feel is present right from the getgo. Who is John Wick? What makes him a likeable character? What even are his traits? Why would his wife marry him, a cold-blooded assassin? Despite losing his wife, I have no idea of this guy’s history. What made him such a ferociously good assassin, despite more than one of the action sequences contradicting that? Why should we feel for him when he gets a beagle puppy as a last gift from his dead wife in the only moment in the movie when I can tell that Keanu Reeves is actually trying? After 101 minutes with John Wick, Assassin Extraordinaire and James Bond wannabe, I have absolutely no idea who this guy is. Seriously, a dead puppy and a stolen car warrant a quest for bloody revenge. Wh-what? Huh? Oh-okay. This could have been great for a balls-to-the-wall dark comedy, but as a movie that takes itself way too seriously, the mishandled usage of this plot device is glaring.

Much like the other characters. I did a little research and determined that Michael Nyqvist as the villain was supposed to be the quirky foil to the stoic Reeves, but that was completely lost on me, and caused Nyqvist to be a little annoying. I have no idea why he would place a two million dollar contract on Wick to protect his son who he clearly has no love for in the one (I think) scene they actually share. Worse, his son Alfie Allen is one of those selfish, arrogant, entitled little shartheads that I could just punch in the face … had he actually been given screentime and character. What other characters were there? Oh, there was Adrianne Palicki, who is one of the contradictions of John Wick’s fame/infamy, as she kicks his ass for the first half of their fight. Ha; Keanu’s getting beaten up by a woman. What a pussy. Oh, so Keanu’s beating up a woman; what an asshole. (Seriously; do not EVER make your main character fight a woman and still expect me to care about him. It hugely negatively impacts his character regardless of the result.) Uh, there’s Willem Dafoe, who apparently is Wick’s mentor, or one of his buddies, or something.

The acting is subpar all around, save Reeves, who doesn’t even try. I’ve never liked Keanu Reeves as an actor, as he is dreadfully bland, and even in his supposedly emotional moments, he still barely even tries. And in John Wick, he’s just playing Neo again. All he needs to do is to drop a “I know kung fu,” or a “Whoa”, and he’d be playing the exact same character, except with a slightly darker and angstier demeanor. Thank God he can direct. Michael Nyqvist is the only other character who has enough screentime to leave an impression. While he was decently villainous in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and was perhaps one of a precious few saving graces of Abduction (you know – the one with Taylor Lautner), he just does not do very well in John Wick. As for the other actors, none were onscreen nearly enough to leave an impression. Well, some of the bit parts were done pretty decently, but that’s about it. Oh, and Theon Greyjoy was there as a plot device.

All I can say about the cinematography is that John Wick looks like a Bourne movie minus the infuriating overabundance of shaky-cam. It’s such a pity that every action movie is required to have its own visual style, as nearly every possible visual style has now been used, and that to even look good, an action movie has to rip off one or more tired styles. John Wick‘s style sinks into the mire of overdone tripe.

As for the action sequences everyone praises, I don’t think they’re done very well. Chad Staheleski is no Quentin Tarantino. He’s not even a Michael Bay. To justify that little tidbit: action sequences are what Bay does best. He’s legitimately good at crafting them. It’s what saves his movies from being any worse than they are. For example, the first Transformers is a guilty pleasure of mine. And those Transformer fight sequences are pretty damn impressive. But John Wick‘s are not. When I think of a good hyper-violent action scene, I think of the Uma Thurman vs. the Crazy 88 scene from Kill Bill. Chad Staheleski is clearly trying to emulate that, but with guns rather than katanas. It’s really distracting. While Kill Bill‘s action scenes were stupid, over-the-top BS, John Wick is clearly trying to emulate it, but without katanas, and it’s taking itself way too serously.

The script at least handles its cliches in a way that is not as obvious or cringeworthy. But it’s still cliche as hell. At least better revenge movies like Death WishThe Crow, and the original Oldboy raised the stakes to an ungodly high personal level, but killing Wick’s puppy and stealing his car causes him to get super cereal and engage in bloody vengeance of Biblical proportions. Come on. Oh, and there’s this super-secret subculture of hitmen. They have their own lavish hotel with its own bar and swimming pool and strip club where these hitmen trade their own freaking currency. And as if this wasn’t head-scratch-worthy enough, John Wick’s own set of super-assassin skills barely register as competent when going up against his own kind. That’s just pathetic. A script as silly as this has no place in a movie that screams in your face, demanding that it be taken seriously.

And the worst crime that John Wick commits is that it’s dullIT’S SO DULL! It’s so boring! I was unable to become invested in the story or characters because John Wick himself is such a blank slate! I had no reason to feel any emotion at all toward what was going on except boredom! And even now, as I type this barely an hour after watching it, I barely remember any of it.

I have no idea how people were able to like this movie and clamor for a sequel, and I’m giving John Wick a 1.5/5.

The sequel had better be good.

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