Friday, February 13, 2015

John Wick

2014,  Chad Stahelski -- download

I normally only add genre flicks to my collections, movies I will watch over and over again, as the mood strikes it. But the first thing I said, as this movie came to a close, was that I would be adding it to the shelf. It was just too damn beautiful to not be seen on Blu-ray, multiple times. Beautiful? John Wick? That movie with Keanu playing a hitman who comes out of retirement, taking revenge on the men who killed his puppy? Yes, that movie. This movie is fucking beautiful to watch, and not just stylish. Oh, it is stylish, but the layout of each of the scene in 2.39:1 widescreen was perfection, often shot distantly to allow more onto the screen. The stylistic colour and design choices of this elite crime world, reminded me in turns of many of its influences: noir, gun fu, hong kong action (think of the use of colors in Chow Yun-fat's Killer) and graphic novels. Lovely movie.

So yes, they kill his dog. But its not just a simple 'kill his dog - he takes revenge' plot device. Even if it had been so, that simple concept was enough to have me cheering the trailer, for a fun brainless action thriller. But no, its more. In a very truncated opening sequence, we see Wick lose his wife (silently, via disease) and gain a puppy, one she arranged to have delivered to him after her death, so John will continue to know love. This is like a reddit post, one where a guy shares a post about the puppy he is raising that his girlfriend arranged for him to have, after she died of cancer. It would gets 10s of thousands of up-votes. The feels are palpable. Its not just a shout of, "You killed my dog, now prepare to die." This is John having his mourning tool ripped from him, like his heart from his chest.

John lives in his big, fancy house beside a lake in New Jersey. He drives his car hard and refuses to sell it to the well clad, thuggy Russians he runs into at the gas station. Oh look, its Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) -- this is not going to end well. They surprise John later, in his house, and kill his dog and steal his car. They try and get it modified at a local chop shop and Alfie just gets his nose punched for his efforts; Aurelio the owner of the chop shop knows whose car they have stolen. Of course, Alfie's dad calls Aurelio, "You struck my son?" His response, "They stole John Wick's car and killed his dog." Oh. That is the gangster's response, a simple one word answer filled with the weight of understanding. Oh. You can almost hear his blood run cold.

The rest of the movie is a beautiful ballet of ultra violence and gun fu, with a hint of video game. Revenge movies are a genre where you already know the direction taken (*ahem*), so you have no guesses as to plot. Any creative divergences from such are usually distracting. So, this one progresses as it should, with Wick shooting anyone who gets in his way. But oh so lovingly directed. From the locations, like the Red Circle club (a side reference to a fake-Buddhist quote about men and their destined convergences, from a movie, Le Cercle Rouge, that influenced John Woo and this movie) to the snazzy flat iron building Hotel which doesn't allow business on its premises, making it a refuge for underworld types. To the costuming; Hannibal would have felt good in these tailored dark suits. To the music, hard thumping electronic when necessary with one sequence reminding me of Blade and the opening vampire take-down. The movie just made good choices.

These movies are like candy to me. I eat them quick but the sugar high runs out. I forget much. But I know I want more and I will be watching this again, so I can catch more little things that will elicit smiles from me.