John Wick


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!

Dark City

Carrying on with the look of The Crow, Proyas gives Dark City an appropriately noirish atmosphere. Many have asked whether The Matrix ‘borrowed’ heavily from Dark City. The similarities are blatant, the opening few scenes are almost identical to the Wachowskis’ movie, and some of the early dialogue is the same. The look is similar, as is the story to some extent: your life is being controlled by an outside, unseen force, and the human race is their little play thing. Then again, Proyas’ story has elements from Metropolis, and Blade Runner. Both films are must-sees from the nineties, but unfortunately Dark City is barely known.

Sewell’s character Murdoch wakes up with no idea who he is, or who the dead woman beside him is. When he is chased by a group of leather clad baldies, he begins to wonder what the hell is going on. He questions why no-one can remember the last time there was daylight, or remember the way out of the city. Help comes in the form of odd doctor Sutherland, who seems to be the only other person in the city who doesn’t mysteriously fall asleep at midnight. Sutherland teaches Murdoch how to harness his powerful gift (an ability to ‘change’ his surroundings), and then try to bring down the bad guys.

Questions of free will are explored, and like The Matrix we wonder whether it would be better not to know. At the end, there is still no escape from the city, although Murdoch’s power to create remains. Most of the performances are good, though unlike The Crow, Dark City has a bleak, close to emotionless feel to it, and only Jennifer Connoly adds some glamour. The film is visually stunning and the plot is engaging, though it was always clear that this would never be the blockbuster which The Matrix set out to be.

Go for the special edition DVD for soome decent making of doceumentaries and snacks, and

Dark City

catch up on one of the decade’s forgotten gems.

As always, please leave any comments on the movie or the review. Have you seen it, and do you feel it should be more widely known?