John Wick

Viewed – 22 April 2015  Cinema

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.

Verdict:  4 /5

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Viewed – 04 May 2012  Blu-ray

Despite what some may say regarding actor Tom Cruise’s much publicised private life and Scientology beliefs, I have always considered him the very embodiment of a movie star.  He has the looks, the charisma, the acting ability and presence of a true Hollywood talent, and I personally have enjoyed many of his movies.  So naturally this latest instalment in the hit action franchise was a tantalising prospect … the only question remains, has Cruise, now approaching 50 still got what it takes to be a credible action star?

When a mission to Moscow goes wrong and the IMF team are accused of terrorism, Cruise and his band of agents are forced to go underground in order to track down the real culprit and prevent a nuclear threat.  Cruise is super-agent Ethan Hunt, this time joined on his mission by computer expert Simon Pegg, fellow agent Jeremy Renner and token hot stuff bad ass babe Paula Patton.  Directed by Brad Bird in his live action debut following animation hits The Iron Giant and The Incredibles this is slick and exciting stuff, with several stand-out action sequences including a veritgo-inducing sequence on the worlds tallest building in Dubai, as well as car chases, fist fights and lots of cool gadgets.

Unsurprising for a Mission Impossible film, the plot gets a touch complicated, and the villains are little more that stereotypical Russian nutjobs.  That being said, it was nice to see Michael Nyqvist in the lead bad-guy role following his turn in the Swedish The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and it’s sequels, but he doesn’t add much to proceedings other than look menacing.  Jeremy Renner on the other hand is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors and is again more than just hired muscle, adding some much-needed depth.  Simon Pegg also delivers in the comedy department with his usual one liners and lovable charm.  Brad Bird directs the action well with a few funny nods to franchise clichés such as a telephone that fails to self-destruct and to top it all, Cruise has lost none of his physical ability or screen charisma over the years.  I’d have loved the Mission Impossible theme to have been better implemented (why do they keep remixing it?) but overall this was a satisfying experience and a great addition to a great franchise.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest

Viewed – 15 April 2011  Blu-ray

So we come to the final installment in the much acclaimed and iconic adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, where following the dramatic conclusion of The Girl Who Played With Fire, we find Lisbeth Salander recovering in hospital under Police observation awaiting trial for the attempted murder of her Father.  At the same time hot-shot Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (the excellent Michael Nyqvist) is gathering evidence to clear her name.  To say I was looking forward to this is an understatement, and although I had my reservations about the last movie, it still kept me gripped enough for me to want to find out what happens next.

Continue reading

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Viewed – 17 July 2010  Blu-ray

I only have a casual awareness of the famed Millenium Trilogy by late author Stieg Larsson, and this first adaptation of the first book caught my eye after seeing many rave reviews.  Telling the tale of a missing girl and the disgraced reporter (Michael Nyqvist) who is hired to uncover the truth, this is certainly well told, gripping stuff, and as he investigates a shady high-profile family, uncovering a dark past – a street-wise computer hacker with a troubled past of her own befriends him and helps him piece together the clues.

Expertly directed by Niels Arden Oplev and with a stand-out, tragic performance by Noomi Rapace as computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, this has a thoroughly gripping, complex story full of twists, turns and heart-in-mouth moments, that while unflinching and at times disturbing, kept me literally on the edge of my seat.  It’s a long movie but never did it drag as the story has plenty of detail and with glimpses of both leads past to add further depth, I couldn’t dare look away for a second.  With some stunning cinematography showcasing the grand Swedish wintery-locales as well as stylish direction and a suitably exciting score, this is a movie that just keeps on giving, all leading up to an ending that is both emotional and satisfying.

It would seem on this evidence (and that of acclaimed vampire flick Let The Right One In), that Sweden is becoming the new France for well made, accomplished movies … and I simply can’t wait to see the next in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Verdict:  5 /5