Sunday, July 17, 2016

Some Fava Beans and a Nice Keanu

I dunno... just what do you do with a movie like John Wick?  The latest and the greatest in a long succession of revenge movies, each one more heavily edited than the last.  If it goes by too fast, nothing gets a chance to stick!
Now, my viewing companion was far more enthusiastic than I.  Well, first of all, it's all part of Skinamax... Cinemax's freeview weekend.  Which is good!  But he TiVo'd it off of one of the non-HD Skinamax channels... which is bad.  Don't get me wrong, I love letterboxing as much as the next cineaste, but when it's shrunk down, with horizontal AND vertical letterboxing... I mean, that's just mean.  It's like watching a giant slice of Hubba Bubba bubble gum or something.  The picture quality suffers as well... we might as well be watching it on a giant Zune, for Gawd'z zake!
So there was that.  Then there's the matter of the plot.  Keanu Reeves plays Jack Wick... John Wick, the ultimate assassin who's now retired, and living in a very, very, very big house... hmm!  Did Keanu use his own house for this movie, by any chance?  Anyway, as with Serpico before this and, to a lesser extent, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, we start at the end of the movie and work our way back to it.  In a rare twist, SPOILER ALERT... they could've shown the end part again, but we skip over it and get a bonus coda!  Lucky us.
And so, we get the part in About Schmidt where Jack Nicholson is puttering around the house after his wife unexpectedly and abruptly passes away.  But before Keanu's wife passes away, played by the always lovely Bridget Moynihan, her final act is to buy Keanu a cute puppy to take care of.  Damn, these filmmakers are good.  And so, Keanu tries to rebuild his life, but it all gets shattered to pieces after a seemingly chance encounter at a gas station.  Oh, and in a bit of Movie Psych 102, we see Keanu pull his expensive Mustang out of the garage twice in the same fashion, with the fake lens flares and everything.  I used to like those lens flares, especially when they were real.
As we come to find out later, Keanu was no ordinary hit man.  Sound familiar?  The Russian mob boss explains to his douchebag son... sound familiar? ... that they used to refer to Keanu as the Boogeyman... or, rather, the guy you hire to get rid of the Boogeyman.  Which brings me next to the subtitles.  The subtitles have special EMPHASIS on certain words, and not just the swear words.  Oh, Saul Bass, you just wouldn't recognize your craft today, I tells ya!
And so, we get the long slog towards Keanu exacting revenge, first against the son, then against the father.  We get Willem Dafoe along for the ride... damn, I thought they did Henry's Crime together... I just realized something.  In Beverly Hills Ninja, Chris Farley ... never mind, it'll take too long to explain.  But in the film, he more or less plays an intrepid private eye, getting various assists by Robin Shou.  The only one that springs to mind is Robin helps Farley from afar by putting his fake moustache back on.  Do not Willem and Keanu have the same dynamic in this film?  Oh, I think they do!!!
There's also similarities to Payback / Point Blank to be had here, mostly centered around a mob-friendly hotel, which Keanu stays at while on his quest during the course of the movie.  Of course, in those other two movies, the mob controlled the hotel outright.  Here, the emphasis is on the fact that the management of the hotel insists that no "business" be conducted on the premises.  The penalties for violating this trust are severe indeed, as what's-her-face finds out later, spoiler alert.  Dare I say it?  We just might have a new Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (Cusack) on our hands!
So, if nothing else, the film has a slight fondness for decorum, or protocol, or whatever you'd want to call it.  That, and GQ-type poses, esp. with Keanu and his car, outside of the hotel.  And I can't help but wonder if decorum or protocol is part of what sets the whole plot in motion in the first place.  They say that John Wick is one of the most dangerous hitmen of all time, including Cretaceous and Devonian... unless you've broken into his own house?  Didn't his Spidey-Sense tingle at all?  I know, I know, we wouldn't have a movie otherwise.  I had to point this out to my viewing companion at one juncture... I think it was the part where the Russian mob boss captures Keanu and ties him to a chair.  You know, like in all the James Bond movies, when the bad guy captures Bond, ties him up, tells him everything about the evil plan, then leaves him alone so he can escape again.
There were some other memorable scenes.  I was scratching my head a bit when the cop comes to Keanu's door and sees one of the 12 dead bodies on the floor behind him.  "Working again?" asks the cop.  "Just sorting some stuff out," says Wick.  The cop leaves soon after that.  You can find it and more at the film's IMDb Quotes page, incidentally.  Another scene that Bill Maher would surely love revolves around the Russian mob using a church as their hideout/bank vault.  Keanu walks in and shoots the priest almost right away, then shoots most of the few people in there praying... of course, most of them were armed, so it's understandable... this was another thing I found myself questioning, but whatever.  If Russian mobsters have the ways and means to take over a whole church and use it for their own special vault, then so be it.  And what's the deal with Russian mobsters anyway?  They're making a big comeback in cinema thanks to Putin, the Trump of the East.  But in a slight nod to bad ethnic casting of the 1950s, a Swede plays the head of the Russian mob named Viggo Mortenson Tarasov.  Was Rade Sherbedzija so busy?... NOW I'M DOING IT!!!!!  How about Armin Mueller-Stahl?  A little closer; his place of birth is now in Russia.
Okay, I admit it, I was entertained, albeit not completely.  I couldn't help but think of the Orlando shootings during the nightclub sequence.  Anyway, you might be saying to yourself, but The Movie Hooligan!  Your complaints up until now are all minor ones.  Any MAJOR complaints?  As a matter of fact, I've just remembered one.  You know how you watch a bad student "film" on YouTube and they'll have a fadeout?  Well, for most of the era of sound movies, when there's a fadeout, there will still be some bit of sound.  If music's playing during the fade to black, it will still play.  Bad student "films" on YouTube will do complete fades to black, sound and picture.  If music is playing, it will fade out.  During the beginning sequence of John Wick, there are a couple of these student film-type edits.  I believe this sets a dangerous precedent in the world of sound editing.  Sure, none of the trade mags will talk about it, even on their quote-unquote "editorial" pages, but I feel strongly about this for some reason.  It's an important part of our shared film lexicon, and it's getting crapped on.  The madness must cease!  We have to have standards, people!  Protocols!  Decorum!  I gotta go...

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Order a professional Sparkling White Smiles Custom Teeth Whitening System online and SAVE BIG!
* Up to 10 shades whiter in days!
* Professional Results Are Guaranteed.
* As good as your dentist, for a fraction of the cost.
* Same Teeth Whitening Gel as dentists use.