John Wick

Rating:

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES

Main Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist

Director: Chad Stahelski

The contracts have been signed, the technology engaged, and the staff is in the process of being hired so I can now tell the world about my latest and perhaps greatest entertainment venture.  Presenting VickiTube – a brand new streaming service which will bring the finest quality entertainment to the living rooms of America for a safe, socially distanced, but totally captivating experience.  We are planning on a lineup of Vicki Lester approved films, culled from the finest vaults of public domain works, a number of original shows starring top Hollywood talent, and a daily current events koffee klatch with yours truly in which I and my guests weigh in on the great issues of the day and solve modern problems in less than an hour.  All that and more for the low, low price of only $7.99 a month.

Of course, many of our projected series will depend on hitting certain targets regarding the number of subscribers so if you want to see such stellar entries as The Great Vicki Lester Baking ShowMNM: Tiger Queen, Mimehunter, and Orange is the New Tap Dance, all my lovely readers will have to subscribe and encourage their friends and family to do so as well.  We have enough venture capital in the bank to get through the first six or so weeks and then we’ll see what happens.  I leave all of that to the money people.  I am remaining solely on the artistic side of things, making sure each and every entry on our schedule lives up to my exacting standards.  Our first offering is a home shopping program starring Leah, head of my consumer products division.  She has cultivated the leftovers from my recent downsizing estate sale into a number of lovely lots that can be yours for three easy payments of $19.95 plus shipping and handling if you call now.  The scarves from my dance of the seven veils when I played Salome in Hello, Solly! and my MNM collector dolls are bound to be big sellers.  I’m not so sure about the monogrammed garden tools.  My embossed initials kept falling off of the trowels during our backyard testing.

In order to celebrate, I decided it was time for a film, so I repaired to the home theater with a bottle of Laphroaig 15-year-old single malt and a large snifter to enjoy a film.  I flipped through the DVDs in my ‘to view’ pile and came across John Wick, the Keanu Reeves film from 2014.  Having heard of the film’s success plus the spawning of several sequels but having only the haziest idea of what it was about, I popped it into the machine for a look.  I’ve always been a fan of Keanu Reeves in the right role:  One in which he simply has to look gorgeous, move like a panther, and never actually open his mouth to deliver convincing dialogue. Fortunately, John Wick turned out to be one of those films.  I wasn’t expecting much but ended up enjoying it immensely.

Keanu plays the titular John Wick, a retired Russian mob assassin, so deadly and so feared that he is know to his compatriots as ‘The Boogeyman’.  As the film opens, he has retired with his lovely wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) who is expiring from some Hollywood terminal disease.  She promptly dies leaving John with a broken heart, his classic car, and a puppy she has gifted him with in order to keep him company after she’s gone.  Unfortunately, the car has attracted the attention of Russian mob scion Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen of Game of Thrones fame).  He and his boys decide to steal it from John and in the heist, kill the poor dog.  John, full of fury, dusts off his assassin’s tools and goes looking for revenge.  Iosef’s father Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), who knows exactly who John is and why he is so dangerous, swings into action to try and protect his son leading to ninety minutes of judo, jiu-jitsu, gun battles and forward narrative but the point of this sort of film is for the audience to get on the side of the antihero and cheer him on as he methodically sets up and wipes out his enemies.

While the plotting of John Wick is bare bones, it is embellished by a number of touches that help lift the film out of the ordinary.  My favorite being The Hotel Continental, a sort of old world luxury hotel that caters to the international assassin trade and where various ruthless killers can rest up between assignments in a sort of Switzerland like neutral state where pitched battles are left at the door and the rules enforced by Winston (Ian McShane) the enigmatic but forceful proprietor.  There are also a number of lovely little supporting parts, a deadly female assassin with the improbable name of Mrs. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) who is a good match for Keanu in love and war, and the reptilian Avi (Dean Winters), Viggo’s right hand man and attorney, a character who finds a keen edge in every little bit of dialogue.

Keanu Reeves

Writer Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski approach the material through a mythopoetic lens, recognizing that their anti-hero is larger than life.  It’s a choice that would not work without the right casting in the lead, but Keanu is in his element.  Mr. Reeves, who has been around since the 80s when he was best known for playing goofy teenagers, really entered his element a few years later with the action thriller Speed.  In that film and in The Matrix, he was really able to develop himself as an actor who could transcend the tropes of the action movie simply with his look and his physicality.  Those films did not require much in the way of dialogue (his weak suit) and allowed his presence to carry them which he did marvelously, and he continues to enchant with John Wick.  Keanu can tell us more about his character from just walking across a room than most actors can with a two-page monologue.  He was fifty when this film was made.  Old enough to give us the world-weary vibe of retirement and young enough to convincingly do his own martial arts stunts.

I’m not generally keen on films about international assassins (with the possible exception of some of the better James Bond flicks) but I liked John Wick enough to seek out the sequels.  Two are in the can and an additional two are planned for the future.  That should keep Keanu off the streets for a few years.

Puppy murder.  Sledge hammering floors. Gratuitous John Leguziamo.  Burning cash. Escape trick. Twelve dead assassins. Russian bathhouse. Car vs. chopper. Neck stabbing.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

image by Marybel Le Pape (CC 4.0)

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