Sunday, April 19, 2015

Recent Movies – John Wick and The Guest

John Wick: This film offers a unique theme for a revenge movie—the death of a pet. When Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, the wonderfully sniveling Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones) invades the home of John Wick (Keanu Reeves) to steal his vintage sports car, he and his crew overpower the unprepared Wick and kill his dog, a last gift from his dying finance. A former hitman and enforcer for the mob, Wick goes back into business to track down those villains what done him wrong.  

The plot is that simple. But the execution is magnificent. Wick is a man on a mission. No threat, mob killer or father’s plea can stop him from tracking down and killing anyone in the crew that murdered his beloved pet. This is one of the most violent films I have ever seen. Wick becomes a hurricane of action, and is focused like a laser beam on his goals. In one scene he moves through a nightclub, shooting scores of mob toughs keeping him from his revenge. Two in the chest, one in the head seem to be his mantra, and bad guys are shot up close and in the face. When Wick runs out of bullets, he’ll use anything from a tire iron to a deadly out-the-front knife (similar to the one I carry personally, that was cool) for last-resort protection. He is also an expert martial artist, and there are some brilliant hand-to-hand fight sequences. The action is mean and gory, with Wick leaving the city littered with bodies as he chases his revenge. Can we have a moment of silence for all of the stuntmen obviously killed during the making of this movie? 

The end leaves an opening for a sequel, as Wick finds himself back in the enforcement business. I’m all in for Wick 2, as long as he carries those lovely knives. 

Martial Arts/Action Rating: ***** broken sternums out of 5 

The Guest: The Peterson’s are a nice suburban family. Their son was recently killed in Afghanistan and they are still dealing with their grief. Enter David, a soldier friend of their son’s. David is kind and likable. He stopped by on his way home from the war because he promised their son he would check on them. Invited to stay a day or two, David makes close friends quickly with the family. Beautiful daughter Anna Peterson (Maika Monroe) is the only one who suspects David of not being all he claims. But she can’t put her finger on what’s wrong about him ... 

Then things start to fall apart. David has a violent side which he allows the Peterson teenagers to see, but hides well from the parents. His happy-go-lucky demeanor slowly starts to peel away and reveal a violent monster, No one will believe Anna that David is not all he seems until it is too late for any of them. 

It’s hard to believe Dan Stevens, the puffy English gentleman Andrew Crawley from Downton Abbey, plays the title role. He has slimmed down, buffed up, and has that perfect American accent most British actors seem to acquire effortlessly when needed. David is friendly, full of smiles and easy manipulation to get what he wants. As he turns darker and more violent, he insinuates himself totally into the life of the Peterson’s, their children and their friends. When government authorities arrive to investigate, David shows his true mettle and proceeds to run them all in circles. When the results of his military “programming” are revealed, everyone who had contact with him is suddenly in deadly danger. The ending is absolutely breathtaking and caps off a creepy and addictive movie. Recommended, for a great story and a bevy of chilling performances, especially by Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe. 

Rating: ****½ stars out of 5

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