Bob Odenkirk made his name primarily as the bumbling yet likeable lawyer Saul Goodman in acclaimed TV sensation Breaking Bad. However I’d have never imagined him as some badass former assassin, but that’s the premise we have here as he plays Hutch, a family man hiding a secret that gets unearthed after he pisses off a bunch of Russian mobsters.
From the writers of the John Wick franchise, this also has vibes of Liam Neeson hit Taken mixed with Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, with a rapid pace and plenty of kick-ass violence, all shot with no end of style and wincing choreography. Odenkirk, playing against type is clearly having a ball and is surprisingly convincing. The story however is merely an excuse to show Odenkirk in such sequences and doesn’t add up to much. At around 92 minutes it also felt rushed and occasionally forced just to make things ‘happen’ (he beats up a group of guys on a bus, simply to prove he’s still got it). The main villain is also rather one-note and stereotypical. However it was really great to see the legendary Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s dad joining in with the mayhem.
For its style, some fun humour and quality action, this entertained well enough … but I couldn’t escape the feeling there was a bigger story here we were not seeing, lacking the world-building of the aforementioned Wick movies. Check this out if you’re an action fan, and as a vehicle for Odenkirk you’ll find this eye-opening. Yet for a fully fleshed out experience – I was left wanting.
Everyone’s out to kill John Wick (Keanu Reeves) following the events of the last movie and the former safe zone of The Continental has ex-communicated him. So a price is put on our favourite assassin and now it’s just a matter of survival.
Once any franchise reaches its third instalment you’d be forgiven for expecting the stakes to be raised and they certainly are here leading to several violent, immaculately choreographed and particularly brutal confrontations. This is certainly a visceral, pulse pounding experience yet this time around any plausibility and believability occasionally leap out the window in favour of increasingly thrilling, but at times ludicrous set pieces. The violence takes on a near cartoonish quality at times and when you consider scenes of public fights where the public don’t batter an eye lid or run away screaming, it’s clear the movie exists in its own version of reality, not unlike that scene in The Matrix with the woman in red.
So despite these obvious gripes, how come I still managed to get a real kick out of this? It’s edited and presented with such a visual sheen with so much energy and personality that coming away from this not entertained means you either hate action movies or are a bit dead inside. Smatterings of humour are a welcome addition, and memorable support from Lawrence Fishburne, Ian McShane and especially Halle Berry as a dog-loving fellow assassin still managed to make this sequel worthy despite it all feeling a bit deja at this stage. And no, I haven’t a clue what ‘Parabellum’ means.
The first John Wick was one of my favourite movies of 2015; a stylish, frenetic yet simple tale of revenge and bullets with an iconic turn from the king of cool, Keanu Reeves as the most feared assassin in the world. This follow-up begins almost immediately after the last movie with Wick visited by an old mobster associate who decides to cash in a ‘blood oath’ asking the ’trying once again to be retired’ assassin for one more job. However with reluctance Wick is forced to pick up his gun and take on an army of henchmen that could just start a war.
This plays out similarly to Wick #1 with the killer’s reputation proceeding him wherever he goes, although this time its not about a vendetta but more about trying to survive following double cross after double cross. It’s packed with uber-violent, stunningly choreographed fist fights, gun fights and showdowns; all filmed with no end of style and panache. However with the revenge storyline replaced with all out action, I felt less invested in proceedings, especially with the movie feeling rather stretched out, with some unnecessary padding. We learn a little more of the international scale of the organization Wick works for, and some colourful characters do pop up, including a return appearance from Ian McShane, a mute Ruby Rose and also a reunion of sorts with Keanu’s Matrix co-star Lawrence Fishburn.
If you go into this wanting the same level of style, violence and action as Wick #1 you’ll be fully satisfied. However if like me you were hoping for any progression of characters or the world they inhabit; maybe you’ll need to wait for the inevitable Chapter 3.
During the nineties I had a bit of an obsession with Hong Kong action movies, everything from Jackie Chan to the two-handed gun-play of John Woo. Hollywood quickly followed up on this and the action genre became infused with the influence of far eastern cinema, spawning the likes of Face / Off and The Matrix trilogy. There we come to Keanu Reeves, perhaps not the first person you may have thought of to deftly wield guns and kick ass considering he came from Bill & Ted, but this good looking and decidedly cool actor soon garnered a reputation as the go-to guy for such movies.
He’s been fairly quiet for a while so this come-back vehicle seemed perfectly suited. He plays the title character who following the death of his wife, lives out a peaceful existence with his sleek muscle car and pet dog. However an unfortunate brush with a Russian gang causes a break in at his house, his car getting stolen and his dog to get killed. Only thing is, the gang had no idea who they were messing with.
Perhaps an unintentional homage to classic movie franchise Death Wish albeit with ultra-stylish action that borrows (to an extent) from John Woo … this also feels like it’s own beast, and is carried well by Keanu on ice-cool form as a non-stop killing machine. I sometimes think he’d have made a great Terminator. Support comes in the shape of Willem Dafoe’s seasoned veteran as well as a sultry, sexy Adrianne Palicki. On villainous duties is Michael Nyqvist (Ghost Protocol, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) who proves a more than suitable if clichéd mobster. The set-up is simplistic and the characters slight and under-developed … but for this kind of movie where action is king, we get several stylish, well-edited and gripping encounters, all with a little tongue-in-cheek humour thrown in. I also loved the backdrop of the ‘agency’ that looked after Keanu and his kind (featuring a cameo by Ian McShane) … certainly an idea that could be further developed in sequels.
As the directing debut of former stunt co-coordinator Chad Stahelski, this shows promise for a new visionary in the action movie field. Roll on the already announced John Wick 2.
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