• John Wick: Chapter Three - Parabellum (2019)

    John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is the most spectacular film of the franchise that will obviously carry on beyond this movie. It shows how the hunter has become the hunted as professional hitman John Wick gets chased around the globe and must reconcile with allies from the past to save his life. The story gets some more depth towards the end as a web of conspiracies, intrigues and lies unfolds and offers a few minor surprises and twists.

    The action sequences are even grittier than in the two convincing prequels. The body count in the first fifteen minutes alone is very elevated and will keep the audience on the edge of its seats. The characters don't only use weapons like pistols and daggers but also martial arts techniques inspired buy jiu-jitsu and judo in particular. Other memorable action scenes include a fast-paced escape on a horse, a motorcycle chase and the final scene on a rooftop. Let's also point out that two dogs have some quite remarkable appearances in this film that can be considered highlights of the franchise.

    The locations are also quite intriguing this time around. Aside of locations familiar from the first two films, we discover a Russian theater linked to John Wick's past, an elegant skyscraper made of glass and the city of Casablanca in Morocco as well as the nearby desert. The combination of stunning action scenes, beautiful locations and a few plot twists keep the film entertaining from start to finish.

    In the action film genre, the John Wick franchise is the best thing you could watch these days. This is what the Expandables franchise should have become like as Keanu Reeves faces some prolific actors of the action film genre like Marc Dacascos and Yayan Ruhian. If you analyze the fascinating universe the three movies of the franchise have put together, the sum can even be considered greater than its parts. The only reason why this movie doesn't get a higher rating is because it remains very formulaic, predictable and traditional beyond its entertaining values.

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  • Cold Pursuit (2019)

    Cold Pursuit is a remake of the Norwegian movie In Order of Disappearance. While I usually dislike Hollywood remakes, this film is a quite positive surprise.

    The director of the original movie was also given the chance to direct the remake and it is obvious that he has put all his creativity, heart and soul into this project.

    The locations have changed from Norway to the United States of America but manage to be quite similar since the film takes place in the wondrous winter landscapes of Denver and Kehoe in Colorado.

    The lead character seems to be a perfect role for Liam Neeson who plays yet again a quiet family father with a thirst for revenge. He stars alongside other great actresses and actors like a particularly emotional Laura Dern and a versatile Tom Bateman who incarnates an unpredictable psychopath.

    The conflict between arrogant white drug dealers from the big city of Denver and calmer yet equally deadly First Nation members from the remote winter resort of Kehoe adds some depth to the movie in form of a socio-critical undertone that shows how white men have mistreated First Nations for centuries.

    Cold Pursuit also convinces with a shot of black humour and even some situation comedy. The former can be witnessed in form of the names of deceased characters that appear on screen during the movie and in the credits to pay homage to the title of the original film. The latter is exemplified by the memorable performance of Elizabeth Thai who plays a particularly angry, domineering and headstrong wife who overprotects her husband.

    The movie only has a few minor negative elements which are related to the plot. It seems unlikely that the leader of a drug cartel kills the son of a long-term associate but potentially dangerous opponent based on a few vague assumptions. The fact that the lead character kidnaps the son of the drug cartel leader and carelessly drives around with him is also a headscratcher. The fact that the final confrontation is poorly prepared by the lead character despite his murderous objectives is also surprising to say the least.

    If you are able to ignore some strange plot twists and at times illogical character development, you will enjoy a gritty tale of revenge with excellent actresses and actors, equally enchanting and sinister locations and a particularly elevated death count. Even by Liam Neeson's gloomy standards, this is one of his most brutal films ever and certainly not a movie for the whole family. Cold Pursuit is the movie to watch during this harsh winter season.

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  • John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

    John Wick: Chapter 2 is both one of the few action movies that actually has a reason to exist and that can compete with its predecessor. The former is confirmed since the titular main character has killed so many criminals in the predecessor that he has become public enemy number one which is the central plot element of this film. The latter is underlined by this film's similarly straight pace, pitiless action sequences and cool acting performances which make the transition between the two films very smooth. I would actually recommend watching the entire trilogy back to back since the films take place over a few days in the life of professional assassin John Wick.

    Just like its predecessor, this movie obviously doesn't feature an intriguing plot. However, it expands the universe of John Wick as well as his associates and competitors. It gives us more details about the lead character's impressive reputation and explores his life before his initial retirement. The film adds a few new characters such as a shady crime lord played by Riccardo Scamarcio and an enigmatic underground cult figure who controls a large network of homeless gangsters incarnated by Laurence Fishburne. The film also introduces new spectacular locations such as a stealthy infiltration sequence to assassinate a powerful woman at the heart of Rome.

    To keep it short, this sequel is as good as its predecessor and offers a whopping two hours of passionate action with spectacular locations, cool characters and some interesting background stories. This approach makes me think of a fast-paced video game like Hitman on steroids. The John Wick franchise doesn't reinvent its genre but offers unpretentious fun for fans of gritty action films for adults.

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  • Peppermint (2018)

    Peppermint is at heart a feminist version of John Wick and shows how a mother who lost her family to a drug cartel goes into hiding and comes back five years later to take her pitiless revenge. The story might be simplistic at some points and quite predictable but that is the movie's only minor flaw.

    Jennifer Garner's performance is stunning as you really root for the hurt family mother who disciplines herself to become a resilient killing machine. The fight scenes are spectacular, involving martial arts elements and well as gun fights. The numerous settings are also used during the movie's numerous ferocious combats. The intense action sequences are interrupted by entertaining scenes showing how police, media and civilians react to the lead character's revenge.

    If you like spectacular action movies with a dramatic background story and some tension leading to a climatic showdown, you will enjoy every minute of the very compact Peppermint. Despite the predictable story, it's one of the best contemporary action movies I have seen. You will only find better films of that kind in Asia these days. Overrated action actors like the dull Dwayne Johnson should take some notes from a spectacular Jennifer Garner.

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  • Mile 22 (2018)

    Be warned that if you watch this movie, you won't get a proper conclusion. The film doesn't have a true climax and ends on several cliffhangers. A sequel has already been announced as well as a spin-off web series. If you want to watch a movie with a coherent exposition, intense rising action, concise climax, gripping falling action and satisfactory resolution, you shouldn't watch this movie at all. I actually felt cheated watching this film because Mile 22 is rather like a television pilot than a genuine standalone movie.

    That isn't the only thing that is wrong with this flick. Mile 22 actually has a decent plot and a little twist but instead of developing this potential, the writers threw everything overboard. The twist is revealed very early in the movie, hence depriving the film from a real climax. In addition to this, the film chaotically meanders from scenes in the present to scenes in the past which is particularly confusing in the first few minutes. The perspectives also change as we follow friends and foes alike without any coherence. The shaky cameras make this film even harder to digest. The structure of this movie is also quite strange, since the first half focuses on a massive number of dialogues with the exception of the intriguing opening ten minutes while the second half offers non-stop action sequences. The plot is basically quite simple but is told so chaotically that it ironically fits the movie: American intelligence officers need to escort a potential double agent with important information to an airport in Indonesia but local law enforcers as well as Russian terrorists are trying to prevent this by any means necessary. The whole film feels disjointed, messy and unfocused.

    One thing that saves this movie from being below average are the great action scenes in the second half. Iko Uwais' skills alone are worth watching the film alone as he uses feet, hands and even his head to fight relentlessly while also using authentic weapons as well as improvised weapons such as chairs, tables and windows. Mark Wahlberg also plays some tough action scenes, handling his weapons fearlessly and skillfully to find a way out of the most challenging situations. His female sidekick played by Lauren Cohan has to fight for her life several times and performs her role with energetic despair. Among wolves in wolves' clothing, she is the character viewers might sympathize with most.

    Another positive element are the characters that have some depth even though this movie only scratches on the surface of this potential. Mark Wahlberg plays a grumpy sociopath who constantly plays with fire. Lauren Cohan incarnates a divorced mother with anger management issues. Iko Uwais convinces in the role of a sinister, quiet and intelligent agent who has numerous hidden agendas. The side characters remain more superficial but interesting nonetheless for an action movie, especially since there are some intriguing cameos by well-known household names of the genre.

    The movie feels aborted when the credits start rolling after less than ninety minutes. Several questions remain unanswered. The film doesn't offer a proper resolution to the events that were meticulously prepared over the course of about eighty-five minutes. You will leave the cinema scratching your head and wondering whether you have just experienced ninety minutes that were wasted or well-spent. Mile 22 is an entertaining film and especially the second half will please to those who like films in the key of The Raid or The Villainess. On the other side, it's a chaotic, inconclusive and simply stated unfinished mess of a movie. If you care for a story, I would suggest you to avoid this movie altogether. If you just want to see Iko Uwais, Mark Wahlberg, Lauren Cohan and their sidekicks kicking ass for about forty-five minutes, go ahead and enjoy yourself.

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