Children Of The Corn

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I can’t be specific on dates, but Children Of The Corn was one of the first horror movies I remember discovering. Like I mentioned in my Creepshow 2 review, posters can have a powerful effect on a growing, inquisitive, impressionable mind. Over time I somehow gained information about the story and the movie and began to form my own version of it in my head, but I didn’t get to see it until years later. There’s a danger of being let down after consciously or subconsciously hyping a movie, but where Children Of The Corn is concerned, the mystery and tone conveyed in the opening portions of the movie aligned with the picture I’d created in my mind. Watching again years later, it’s clear that there are better King adaptations and it that it has plenty of shortcomings. I still feel that it captures the essence of the unknown which juvenile and growing horror fans find so alluring, even if it doesn’t have enough bite to hold an adult audience in its thrall.

Adapted from King’s 1978 Night Shift short, Children Of The Corn is the first of (somehow) ten movies in a series which I can only assume grows increasingly <corny> as it progresses. King wrote the original screenplay, but as was normal for the time another writer would come in to usurp the script and focus more on violence than drama. The original story is a simple one – a bickering couple are driving through the US heartland, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, only to become lost and encounter a savage backwater. The key difference here being that the savages are a bunch of kids, creepy religious zealot kids who follow an unseen God known as ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’. The movie keeps the basics in check, albeit offering less in the way of marital distress and more in the way of heroic dads and wholesome family dynamics.

We open in pleasingly creepy fashion, as Isaac – moon-faced pre-teen leader of the group sends the crazed Malachi and friends on a poison and murder spree through their hometown, Gatlin. It’s a simple farming town, and the crops have been failing, which Isaac takes to mean their God is not pleased. And we all know how to appease an angry, malevolent God. Cut to a few years later and a ‘just about to be famous for Terminator’ Linda Hamilton (Vicky) and boyfriend Peter Horton (But) heading up river to start a new life. Driving through endless miles of nothing, their subdued fears about the future are disturbed by the sudden appearance of a child bouncing under the wheels of their car. After initially thinking they hit and killed him, they come to understand that he was already dead. The boy was trying to escape Isaac and his murderous ways, but ended up being sacrificed to the God of Buick. Should they leave him and go on their way? Should they drop the body off in a local town? Should they take him to a big city hospital, or the Police Station in local Gatlin? This being a horror movie, the pair make the wrong choice and quickly find themselves in a world of pitchforks and pasty teens.

The film isn’t as shlocky as some early King adaptations, surprising perhaps given the subject matter. Likewise, it isn’t anywhere near the level of his biggest films of the period – Carrie or The Shining. To its credit, it isn’t all silly surface scares – that sense of the unknown and of being lost permeates the atmosphere in the opening scenes and its an atmosphere which works for me personally having been a child with a heightened fear of being lost or left behind in a new place. Outside of personal feelings, the film is an obvious parable for religious fundamentalism and the dangers of allowing any cult to take power. I like this angle, as ham-fisted as it may be delivered here, and I’m sure a more dedicated experienced director and writer combo could do something stronger with the material viewed in this way. There are of course numerous departures from the source material, fleshing out the cult and delivering a less downbeat ending for example. It’s well enough shot, using the open and wide landscape to decent effect, and by and large the cast serve their purpose – all the more impressive given that many of them are kids. Hamilton doesn’t get to show off her later chops, but is more than the withering lead lady of the piece you might expect from such a film, and gets just as much screen time and action as Horton. They work well as a couple and spend much of the film apart dealing with various factions within Gatlin, again equipping themselves admirably.

Is it top tier King? No, but that’s generally reserved for his more classy material or when a classy director gets a hold of his work. But it’s serviceable enough for most viewers to get something out of it, and good enough that many King and horror fans might rank it as a second tier adaptation. In any case, in this strange time of locked doors and empty streets we find ourselves in it’s worth a watch to remind ourselves what the outdoors look like – and that what’s out there may want us for lunch.

Let us know what you think of Children Of The Corn in the comments!

The Stuff

The Stuff is another one of those movies which was just out of my reach in childhood. I was born in 1983, so many of the classic VHS titles of the 80s were familiar to me, but I couldn’t get near them until the DVD boom or today’s streaming. Thanks to a bunch of older friends and relatives, and older siblings of my friends, and thanks to be frequent jaunts into the video stores in my town, there was always a list of titles floating around my head as movies I absolutely had to see at all costs. In many cases these were movies which those acquaintances spoke of in hushed tones – everything from Basic Instinct to Evil Dead.  In mot cases it was the VHS artwork which caught my eye and solidified the movie’s position in my hallowed list. The Stuff had a great cover – some dude’s melting face, writhing in agony and despair as some sort of white gunk spilled from his empty eye sockets and mouth. Surely it was the greatest film of all time?

The Stuff  isn’t the greatest film ever made, but it is one of Larry Cohen’s best. Before I knew who he was, and before I’d seen The Stuff I was already familiar with his work. Q The Winged Serpent was a personal favourite of my youth and Return To Salem’s Lot was a curious sequel. Once I became more savvy towards film it became obvious that Cohen was somewhat of a political filmmaker – his often not too subtle satire veiled under the shlock of the time and other B Movie delights. The Stuff is no different, a clear attack on big business, advertising, consumerism, and the herd mentality of created needs and addiction. Surprisingly, it’s not the goriest film in the world – The Stuff (is it wrong that it looks delicious and I want to try it?) does frequently spurt from people but more often than not you simply see it slushing and slithering around like a gelatinous mass or worm, as it does a Body Snatchers number on whoever tastes it. Interestingly, Cohen would go on to write the story for Abel Ferrara’s 90s Body Snatchers movie.

So if it’s not overly gory, and if it has all this overt political stuff in its plot, why should the less discerning Horror viewer want to watch? Well, because Michael Moriarty. Here he is at his most smug, smarmy best – all Wall Street suits and ties, a walking ballbag of quips and testosterone who doesn’t appear to have thrown a punch in his life yet is just as efficient in a fight to the death as James Bond. His character is hired by a bunch of unsavoury Ice Cream moguls, seriously, to investigate the makers of The Stuff and find out what it is to either shut it down or share a slice of the pie. As he investigates he learns a lot more and finds his dubious allegiances tested. Along the way he meets a kid escaping from his Stuff-obsessed family, a hot executive, an old friend/rival, and a gun totin ex-military maniac. It’s like The A-Team, but weird. It’s also quite funny, and all the more amusing in retrospect thanks to the effects and how advertising works today.

As much as 80s Satires go, The Stuff is right up there with the most outlandish but effective. Cohen always makes an interesting movie and Moriarty always does whatever the hell he wants. Don’t go in, like 8 year old me did, expecting a bloody, scary, melt-fest. Go in expecting a few chuckles and some charming nostalgia and weirdness, and it gets the job done.

February (The Blackcoat’s Daughter)

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Two things brought me to this film – beyond it simply being a horror movie. The first, is that I love Emma Roberts as an actress, and second is that the guys over on The Shockwaves Podcast wouldn’t shut the hell up about it. No-one else loves horror more than those guys and as well as being involved in the industry, their regular show features horror writers, directors, actors and more – with one episode featuring February’s director Oz Perkins (son of Anthony). I’ve watched it – is it any good?

Aside from what I’ve mentioned already, the film has two major things going for it – how it looks, and its atmosphere – both cold and distant, both interweaving, and that coldness blitzes its way into every other aspect. The characters speak and act in a disaffected way, there are long staring shots of emptiness, and the snowy landscape a la The Shining adds to a sense of unease and claustrophobia. It’s a frequently beautiful, startling movie which aims at the heights set by Let The Right One In, but doesn’t quite get there. The unease is shown to be formed by and coupled with an unraveling mystery and twists which, me being me, were fairly obvious. Unfortunately the film by its very nature will likely frustrate casual viewers and if Perkins has his heart set on loftier ideals and audiences the coldness emitting from the characters is one I reciprocated towards them – I just didn’t care about them or any of what was going on, as intriguing and watchable as it was.

February (or The Blackcoat’s Daughter) will find a cult audience but I don’t think it’s a movie which will demand the rewatches which cult movies often do. Certainly once certain reveals are made some may want to revisit to tie the various strings together, but for me a revisit needs to be fun. Ostensibly, the film is about girls in a secluded Catholic school, staying behind while most of the students and staff have left for a week. One of the girls is an unusual Freshman, the other a promiscuous older teen. It would be unfair to say more, but there are creepy figures, rituals, blood, and blades. It’s a film which has been marketed as a straight horror film but it’s not so simple dealing instead with mental illness, possible possession,  guilt, and loss.

The cast fare well with the material – Shipka, Boynton, and Roberts are each compelling performers, and the cast is rounded out by the likes of James Remar and Lauren Holly in minor supporting roles. There’s plenty for them to do but they are restrained by Perkins’s direction and vision for the film meaning that most lines are delivered as if from behind a curtain, most performances being more like a ventriloquist’s dummy. That’s what they’re going for and if you’re into the style then it’s perfect. For me, I felt like I was being asked to care about these people but being given no reason to. Unlike many horror films, the characters aren’t jerks – they’re just faceless shells who suffer some terrible shit. The film isn’t as good as it thinks it is, or as it needs to be, but what do I know – check it out for yourself.

Let us know what you thought of February in the comments!

The Girl With All The Gifts

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The Girl With All The Gifts feels like the sort of film Sean Bean was meant to be in. The hardened, gruff military man whose heart will soften over the course of the film thanks to a precocious youth and a saucy minx. But he’s probably going to die in the end, maybe sacrificing himself along the way. At its heart though, it’s not about some burly man – it’s a film about a dying world, a mutating world, in which the surviving humans find themselves no longer relevant, much in the same way as I Am Legend suggests, except the focus in more uniquely on the relationship between a girl and her teacher.

As with most YA fiction and apocalyptic movies, there’s is a certain amount of world building and exposition to wade through before we get to the meat of the story and characters. We learn early on that a fungal based disease has wiped out most humans, with those infected being 28 Days Later type creatures. The central twist is that a group of kids who were born half infected are able to somewhat control their monstrous natures and retain portions of their humanity. Scientists have learned from these kids and are in the process of finding a cure and working on ways to further restrain the mutation from taking hold in the children. Gemma Arterton stars as the teacher, Glenn Close is the lead scientist, Paddy Considine is the Sean Bean, and Sennia Nanua is (insert title… maybe). There are varying degrees of distrust and desires between these leads and their factions but when an attack on their safe space makes them outcasts in a dangerous world, they need to find away to work together to survive.

The Girl With All The Gifts is that rare YA adaptation which almost entirely dispenses with notions of romance – there’s no tacked on boy meets girl here which is refreshing in a genre so devoted to pining teens and brooding hunks. While the world and the scenario isn’t exactly unique, there’s enough dedication to design to make this Britain feel believable, and enough quirks in the story and plot devices to keep it distinct. With the cast above you know it’s going to be a well acted affair, and I was surprised by how cold it is throughout – there are difficult decisions and moral dilemmas and characters seem troubled by these as well as the actions of others, while still seeking to meet their own needs or wishes. It’s pleasingly dry and bleak too when it comes down to the wire, and doesn’t allow for any surprise twist or heroic shock to save the day. It’s pretty clear from the opening minutes that humanity is fucked, but it takes until the closing minutes just to realize how much.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Girl With All THe Gifts!

Wake Wood

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Wake Wood is somewhat of a downer. There have been quite a few horror films in recent years dealing with how parents cope after the death of a child, some dealing with the psychological trauma, others taking a more visceral approach following the lengths some parents will go to either to get on with their lives or bring their child back. It’s a tradition going back most famously to Pet Sematary, but naturally it’s a fear as old as time with numerous fairy tales, myths, and stories from antiquity using this unimaginable tragedy and the associated grief as a starting point. Wake Wood lies somewhere in between the visceral and the psychological, not truly succeeding at either, but not truly failing either.

Make no mistake – Wake Wood is a Serious Horror Film – Caps all the way. It wants to hurt, and it wants to remind you of folksy tales like The Wicker Man and drama like Don’t Look Now. It doesn’t have the money or the directing chops of either of those, but it also doesn’t want to scrimp on the gore. It’s difficult to see who the film is really for then because, while plenty of people will want to see a film like this if you heavily market it towards one crowd they’re likely going to be pissed of by the blood or by the artistry. As mentioned – the artistry is more akin to someone just learning the ropes by mimicking their forefathers, while the blood is limited by budget and, well, good taste.

We open with the fairly upsetting mauling of a child by a dog – the girl, Alice, does not survive. Her mother and father – Louise and Patrick – move to a rural village called Wakewood and try to get on with their lives. The people of Wakewood seem friendly enough, though like any of these off the grid towns, there’s something a little off about them. Turns out they have a history of resurrecting the dead via a ritual with a series of rules. This is where some of the more interesting parts of the film come in, hinting at a sprawling history. There are various ancient trinkets and tools and rules employed, but they’re not really discussed or explained. These sorts of things are always interesting to me and I’d like to have known more about their purpose or origin. The main guts of the rules are straightforward enough – to raise the dead, you need another corpse. The person you want to raise must have been dead for less than a year. The person can only return for three days, and the person cannot go beyond the borders of the town. Naturally, as Patrick and Louise makes their decision, each of these rules comes in to play.

Everything about the film is cold, sullen, the muddy brown of a forgotten English graveyard – the performances (featuring Aidan Gillen and Timothy Spall), the direction, the look of the thing right down to the costumes. It’s mournful and bleak, even in its happiest moments and anyone looking for a slice of quirky horror or a hint of joy should shuffle by. It’s not without it’s charms – watching it reminded me of many a gloomy painting or Doom Metal album cover. It’s played out with conviction and its sense of grit and foreboding feels real – if there is a town out there which can bring people back from the dead, this certainly feels like it – insular, brow-beaten, and with the look of a tweed clothed farmer nonchalantly pistoning a bolt through a bull’s skull.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Wake Wood!

Radius

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I want to gorge on films with a fanciful, intriguing premise, something unique, rather than the next multi-million dollar blockbuster. That’s what draws me to little known and little seen films such as this, and why I give a blank stare if someone asks if I’ve seen The Avengers IV: Iron Ass. The premise here, which expands outwards like a ripple the more we learn, is that a man wakes up from a car crash with memory loss, but anyone who comes within a certain distance of him drops dead. So we have the tried and tested memory loss mystery unraveling – something seen in plenty of movies – confounded by a new and deadly ability which he needs to understand.

Radius scratches the low-fi Sci-fi itch I get after seeing too many generic action movies or Sci-fi films which cover their cracks and ideas void with millions of dollars and famous faces. It’s nice to reset, be challenged, and be introduced to new faces and ideas. It can be tricky because, while there are a lot of filmmakers out there striving to bring their passion projects to the screen, many of them simply aren’t very good or are either too obtuse or amateurish for most viewers. Radius deserves to be seen – it’s not the most outlandish, it is generally well acted, shot, directed, and has a solid score – but it plays maybe one or two twists too many and sometimes fails when both trying to explain matters and when leaving things open ended. I got the sense that, while I enjoyed it, many viewers would be frustrated by the lack of guidance, the lack of answers, or indeed by the lack of really pushing any boundaries.

Written and directed by Caroline Lebreche and Steeve Leonard, Radius stars Diego Klattenhoff and Charlotte Sullivan as the man who inadvertently kills anything he comes near, and the woman who finds him but seems immune to his power. Don’t worry subtitle-phobes, the names may sound French, but the movie is all in English. The film ticks plenty of boxes for me – unusual set up and mystery, small primary cast, it’s as much a road movie as it is a Sci-fi, and it’s little known so you can get a little dopamine rush when you tell your friends about it. Horror fans will get a kick out of this – it’s not exactly supposed to be scary, but just the notion of being able to kill people by being near them sounds like a horror movie setup. There are a bunch of kills, but they’re rarely bloody and more of the ‘dude walks forwards then falls down dead’ style, and one of the twists late in the film hints at more horrific beginnings.

I had plenty of fun with Radius although I didn’t always like the directions the story wanted to go. It always felt like one step away from falling into absurdity or needless complexity. There is enough restraint in the storytelling that we are afforded the respect to fill in the gaps ourselves, but a few leaps of faith are required too. I can’t say I was ever drawn in by the characters on any meaningful emotion level and the script doesn’t leave a lot of room for ruminating or romance or outbursts, yet I was happy to follow these characters until the end of their journey. It’s not going to be for everyone, but for anybody else who enjoys imaginative setups such as this, or who want to reset after one too many blockbusters, you might get a kick out of this.

Let us know what you thought of Radius in the comments!

The Lifeguard

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It’s fine, I’ll admit it. I only watched this because the poster was of Kristen Bell in a swimsuit. Now, before you go thinking I’m some perverted pervert – I like Kristen Bell as an actor – I’ve always liked her performances, even if she has had a knack for appearing in less than good movies. The synopsis sounded interesting enough – a twenty something woman has something of a mid-life crisis and returns to her home town to become a lifeguard in her local town – something simple for a late night watch and maybe a showcase for Bell.

The film isn’t a mess – the performances are solid and it feels like a coming of age film about someone who already came of age. But there are problems – if you’ve seen any Indie, Sundance style dramas in your time then you’ll know what you’re in for – pretentious direction without achieving anything to deserve directing in such a way and the aimless soul-searching of characters you wouldn’t want to meet down a bright alley. We never get to grips with why Bell’s Leigh makes the decision (s) she does – something about a relationship breaking down and not being taken seriously as a journalist, which all leads her to moving back in with her parents, taking a dead-end job, meeting up with her old school friends, and most controversially, beginning a sexual relationship with a minor. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me if the kid was 18, or 17, or 21 or whatever, but apparently he is underage. So, we have a love story based around statutory rape, which is rarely a good starting point for a movie which wants us to sympathize with the rapist.

But putting that aside, it feels like a Gen X slacker movie – a sub genre I have a lot of fondness for, but without any of the authenticity, emotion or humour I would expect. It drifts along from A to B, ending as it starts with resolutions made but little learned. The director has the gall to film numerous scenes like a music video, complete with the most bland indie rock drivel you could imagine, and it all serves little purpose. There are a couple of decent moments which should have been focal points – one side character kills themselves and while this acts as a catalyst for later events, the actual death feels glossed over and a necessary device to get the film over its major hurdle and over the finish line. It’s a shame because Bell is always and engaging presence and the rest of the cast is peppered with familiar faces doing the best they can. It’s a shame it all amounts to nothing.

Let us know in the comments if you have seen The Lifeguard!

Scream 2 and Scream 3

*Originally written in 2003. I must go back and write some real reviews on these, because everything below is shite.

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Scream 2 is not as good as the original, let’s get that out of the way. It is part of a trilogy, and sequels are for the most part inferior. Wes Craven knows this, lets get that out of the way. But when the fans want more, and when the story isn’t finished, sequels are inevitably made. It is still a good movie, still better than any of the other teen slasher movies of the period, and retains many of the elements which made the original so good.

Now that we understand that Wes Craven knew exactly what he was doing, we can discuss the good and bad points. Bad – too many unnecessary characters (though strangely many of them are not killed or even put in danger), and most of them do not do much, the twists are too unpredictable to work well, and it is maybe too short. Now the good stuff – each central performance is good, though the Killer (s) is (are) too over the top. Neve is excellent again and has grown as an actress after coping with the fame Scream brought her, ironically mirroring the fame Sydney gets from what happened in Woodsboro. The Arquettes are both very good, Randy is very funny again, and the scares are reasonably effective. The police car scene stands out.

Again the film deals with mistrust and uncertainty, like most of Craven’s films, and we sympathize with Sydney’s struggles – it seems inevitable that she will never put these events behind her, and that it will be a great struggle for her to get close to anyone – her relationship with her new boyfriend shows this (played by Jerry O’Connell). The script is sharp, and there are many in-jokes and meta fun.

Overall it is a good film, and it’s nice to have the continuation of Sydney’s story because the impact the characters of the first film had on me was so great. It cannot be as original or fresh as the first film, but that does not matter, that’s not the point.

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aaah Neve… while it’s probably the least satisfying, well, worst of the series, I think it is the fastest paced, and knowing that it is the final part of the trilogy it tries to be a crowd-pleaser. It is meant to over the top, answering any remaining questions from the previous films, and you can tell Craven was having fun making it.

As always, for me at least, Neve gives a fine performance, doing that thing she does with her eyes and lips at every chance, and although she does seem a bit tired of the whole role, she will go out fighting. The survivors, and Randy, from the other movies, all perform well again, while most of the new additions are simply there to be slaughtered. The guesswork is still there, but it is not a primary part of the film, and there are plenty of gory, funny deaths to keep us amused. I saw an advance screening of this when it first came out, and had a row of girls behind me, screaming and booting me in the back at the slightest opportunity. No, it wasn’t as scary as they made it out to be, but it has its moments: Mother coming up the path, was one I found quite disturbing first time round, and the opening scene is pretty good too. For me, the highlights are not the in-jokes, (Carrie Fisher’s appearance etc), which are good, but the scenes which go for pity and sadness. Randy’s video tape always brings a tear, as does Neve’s discovery at the end. Strange for a horror movie, even more strange for one which is 35% spoof, to have that kind of emotion, but it’s what always set the Scream series apart from the countless other teen slashers of the time. We, or at least I, felt for the characters, especially Sydney, and in the end, I suppose it is a fitting end to the most important horror trilogy of the decade. 

Sorry about that… the quality of these old reviews isn’t great, but I’m too lazy to rewrite them for now. Don’t worry, there are plenty more old and new ones to come. Let us know in the comments what you thought about Scream 2 and 3!

Captain America – The First Avenger

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I have a habit of writing an introduction to my movie reviews long before writing anything else. For example, I’m writing this opening paragraph on 27th October 2017 – I probably won’t write the rest for a few months after and then post the thing months after that. As I write, I have really only started to embark on my Marvel Movie adventure, having never really been swept up in the whole universe. I’m pretty much the prime target audience, having grown up with these characters in their various guises. However, none of the movies I’d seen really reached out to me in the way that say, a Batman movie, or The Crow, or 1978’s Superman did. I’d seen The Avengers, the first Iron Man, some of the early Hulk movies where there was a new actor each time, but they all felt identikit and meh. Lots of ‘splosions and lots of meandering plot which really boiled down to big man saving world and/or girl from big bad man. I didn’t go in to The First Avenger with too many expectations, but I was nevertheless keen to see what the fuss (of the extended universe) was all about.

Our story begins in present day as a mysterious aircraft is discovered in The Arctic. We flip back to the 1940s and get a battle scene where Nazis are doing a bit of mystical treasure hunting – finding something called The Tesseract which can grant them massive power. Cut to the US and we meet the scrawny Steve Rogers, your typical old school white patriot who wants to sign up to the Army to help in the war but is turned down for being sickly and weak. Impressed by his resolve, he is snapped up by a US experimental intelligence team who give him some magic juice, turning him into a Super Solider – a much stronger and faster version of himself. He is now Captain America and while acting as a symbol for all that is good, holy, and American, he chases down the evil Nazi (who also took the magic juice but something went wrong with his experiment) and lots of fights and ‘splosions happen.

First the positives – good effects, good attention to detail in all aspects, especially in creating a believable 1940s world. Not being a fan of Chris Evans beforehand, he is good in the role and abandons all of the annoying ticks and quirks from his earlier movies making him a well-rounded, if a little bland, action hero. The rest of the cast do their jobs as expected, Hugo Weaving having fun as the villain and Hayley Atwell adding some spunk as Peggy Carter. That’s pretty much it – it works as a world building movie and all the expected cameos and geeky nods are there. As an origin story it ticks all of the boxes. The main negative, as I alluded to in the intro all those months ago (now writing on 20th July 2018) is that it’s all so plain. Maybe I’m not the target audience anymore – I’m not wowed by anything, the geeky nods don’t do a lot for me, and there’s an air of ‘seen it before’ about it all. The conflict never seems real, we know how the film is going to end, and try as they might to form some sort of tortured love story, it never comes off. There’s not enough here for me to sink my teeth into. In another world this would be just a very average action movie – it is a very average action movie – but in our world that’s seemingly enough to warrant making almost half a billion dollars at the box office. I can’t come off as too critical – clearly a lot of work goes into a film on such a grand scale and clearly a lot of people love it – it’s fine, I just need something more these days.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of The First Avenger!

John Wick

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Keanu keeps knocking them out of the park – he’s probably the most successful diverse A-List male star at this point in time. By that I mean that he bounces between genre films, smaller budgets, huge budgets, all generally with great box office success and audience enjoyment. John Wick is another action notch on his cap and while it doesn’t come near the majesty of The Matrix it’s still another fun, ridiculous slice of bullet mayhem and grim faces.

Sometimes in action movies, simplicity is best. We’ve seen a lot of overly grim, or needlessly convoluted, or overblown epic action movies in recent years so to have a plot stripped back to basics is pleasing. What’s equally important is that the complexity and finesse which the plot lacks is transposed onto the action – which is fantastic. As always, Reeves fully commits to this side of his character – the unstoppable hitman who never lacks a sleeve to whip out a pistil from. This being a Reeves vehicle, there is a certain moody quality to proceedings – dialogue is light, facial expressions are as blank as the victims of his bullet storm. The cast spices up any gaps in acting exuberance, with veterans such as Ian McShane and John Leguizamo bringing exactly what you would expect them too and Alfie Allen and Michael Nyqvist heading up the villains. Co Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch bring a certain brutal realism to the over the top frenetic action – the pair well versed in action and stunt co-ordination having worked with Reeves during The Matrix Trilogy. The sort of balletic gunplay merged with martial arts with be familiar to fans of The Matrix and shows that the directors have a love for the films of John Woo and friends, and the minimalist characterization of European action heroes of old.

The plot, already the subject of many a meme long before I’d even seen the film, sees John Wick mourning the recent death of his wife. She left him a puppy, hoping he could find some comfort in overcoming his grief. Enter Russian gangsters who take a fancy to Wick’s vintage Mustang – they attack his house, steal his car, and kill the dog. Wick, we learn, is a recently retired Hitman – the best in the business, and he wants revenge. The rest of the film is little more than a sequence of action set-pieces and world-building. A puzzle unfolds with each new face Wick interacts with – a random guy on a street may be a deadly assassin, a luxurious hotel is a hub for the world’s payed killers, and we get snippets of information about their rules, integrity, history, the people who hire them and the people they re paid to kill. It’s all very shadowy but it quickly reaches the point where it seems pretty much every person in the world is involved.

As furious and neck-snapping as the action is, there’s still an inevitability to it all – you know what the outcome will be – but that’s not necessarily a criticism. We’re here to see the ‘good guy’ win, and it doesn’t matter how many hundreds of faceless or gimmicky henchmen are sent his way. It takes the final premise of Game Of Death – fighting a procession of increasingly deadly warriors to reach the end goal – to the next level, toning down the philosophy but instead crafting a world of intrigue and danger. It’s the sort of film which has a charm and enthusiasm which will win over viewers who don’t usually care for this sort of thing and with the style and invention to please hardened action fans.

Let us know what you think of John Wick in the comments!