• John Wick (2014)

    "John Wick" is another fast-paced and graphic revenge movie with some entertaining action and black humour, a fitting soundtrack and the usual stereotypical characters from the Russian mafia. When it comes to gripping revenge flicks, you should rather watch South Korean movies like the intense "The Man from Nowhere" which is twice as good as this film, "I Saw the Devil" which is probably one of the most brutal movies ever made, the emotionally heart-breaking "Blood Island", as well as the philosophical trilogy around "Sympathy for Mister Vengeance", "Oldboy" and "Lady Vengeance" if you are looking for some originality, depth and character development. "John Wick" is only a hollow entertainment for genre fans. If I wasn't a fan of this kind of movies, my rating would be much lower than it is.

    The story is simple. John Wick was a hit-man working for the organized crime in New York City. He retired from his job and started a new life when he met the love of his life. Roughly four years later, John Wick loses his wife to cancer. He receives a posthumous gift from her in form of a puppy with a letter from his wife saying that she is gone and that John Wick should cope with her demise by loving the dog. Coincidentally, he encounters the son of his old boss who doesn't know him. The young Russian mafioso wants to purchase John Wick's vintage '69 Mustang but the grieving man refuses. A few hours later, the Russian mafioso breaks into John Wick's house without any problems as there seems to be no alarm system at all. With a few friends, the young criminal kills John Wick's beloved puppy, steals his car and is bright enough to take off his hood to show his face so John Wick surely knows who he is. The victim survives and goes on to kill around eighty criminals in the next ninety minutes of the movie. Of course, killing the naive culprit is not enough, he also kills his partners, colleagues, bodyguards, his old boss and a few guys in a church. In the end, everybody but John Wick is dead and he goes to the next veterinary hospital, walks off with a new dog and goes home as if nothing ever happened.

    This story is so bad that it could have been written by a twelve-year old. First of all, there are too many coincidences concerning the encounter with the Russian criminals who want to steel John Wick's car. In the entire movie, everybody is talking about John Wick's incredible reputation and everybody knows him wherever he goes but the son of the most influent criminal is the only one who has never heard of him. It's not credible that a smart hit-man doesn't have any alarm system to protect his home. One can understand that the killing of the puppy his wife gave to him really hurts John Wick but taking this event to justify eighty or more murders is not credible at all. In the entire movie, there is no police or anything despite all the shootings in downtown New York City. All of John Wick's enemies are extremely stupid, unexperienced and wooden. Even thirty men in one building can't manage to fight him. I could go on for hours as this movie is filled with so many coincidences, plot holes and unrealistic scenes that it's amusing. If you tell me know that the story doesn't matter in a revenge action movie, just watch any of the movies mentioned in the introduction that prove that even the grisliest revenge thriller can have some depth. Even "The Raid" franchise is more realistic and has better plots. "John Wick" rather feels like a simplistic ego-shooter for video game consoles than an actual movie. I must though admit that the last Splinter Cell games had better story lines than this film.

    Another thing that feels out of place is the fact that fifty-year old Keanu Reeves is playing the unbeatable hit-man. The fighting scenes are somewhat wooden but he still manages to fight off his enemies because their acting is even slower. On the other side, Keanu Reeves also has a certain charisma to fit this role. Fifty-nine year old Willem Dafoe as veteran hit-man who has to kill John Wick is also a questionable choice in my opinion. Still, he is a respectable actor and has charisma. The most annoying thing is the fact that the evil guys are Russians again but that they are portrayed by actors from all around the world like England, Sweden and even Switzerland - except Russia. One can feel that these are wannabe Hollywood Russians and not real Russians.

    You may now ask yourself why I still gave a favourable rating to this flick. It's actually simple. This movie never gets boring. The action scenes are sometimes wooden but most of them are just shootings so it doesn't really matter. These scenes are well directed and include no annoying shaky cameras or overloaded special effects. The settings of the movie are well chosen and vary from dirty chop shops over elegant bath houses to Orthodox churches. There are a few memorable lines in this film as in many other action movies. Some graphic content is related to some dark and dry humour which made the whole thing easier to digest. I actually liked this combination of contradictory extremes and had to laugh quite a few times during the movie. The soundtrack of the movie is also enjoyable and fitting. For genre fans, there are enough entertaining and well-executed elements to enjoy this movie despite its obvious flaws.

     

    If you are looking for some fast-paced and superficial entertainment to switch your brains off, you will like "John Wick". If you are actually looking for a good movie that has more to offer than stylish violence, go for the movies mentioned in the introduction.

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  • The Expandables 3

     

    The third part of The Expandables is another explosive action movie with interesting cameo appearances by cult actors such as Harrison Ford, Jet Li and Arnold Schwarzenegger and a bunch of old action heroes like Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Mel Gibson as well as a younger generation of action stars such as Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey.

    The most interesting actors in the movie are Antonio Banderas who plays the clown and comes around with a few amusing slapstick gags, Wesley Snipes who plays in a very emotional and almost schizophrenic manner where he quickly turns from being ridiculous to menacing and back again and Mel Gibson who portrays a clever, cold-hearted and unpredictable villain.

    Some other actors have less screen time than usual and can't always convince. I would have liked to see more of Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham. Instead, the new movie introduces a younger team of Expandables but these new actors like Kelsey Grammar, Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey simply don't have the charisma and talent of the old generation and feel rather exchangeable. The idea to reinvent the franchise and feature a younger cast was promising but the final result is below expectations. There are far more charismatic action stars like the younger John Cena, Tony Jaa, Li Bingbing and Iko Uwais or even the older Josh Brolin, Mark Dacascos, Liam Neeson and Keanu Reeves for example but these issues have already been discussed before. 

    The story of this movie isn't as generic as the one of the first movie but not as diversified and dramatic as the plot of the second movie. I feel that the story is overall too similar to the second film who remains the best of the franchise to really come close to it. The Expandables 3 is still an entertaining action blockbuster but clearly the weakest of the three movies.

    On the positive side, the locations in the movie have become more exotic and beautiful and take place in different parts of the United States of America, Russia and Somalia among others. The setting, camera, sound and special effects are top notch. On the negative side, I'm aware of the fact that this movie isn't supposed to be realistic at all but some scenes felt so forced and unreal that it was unintentionally hilarious like the part when the motorboat in the port of Mogadishu managed to perfectly jump upon the back of a driving truck. This wasn't the case in the first two instalments in my opinion.

     

    In the end, this is a good movie if you feel like switching your brains off, getting a fast-paced entertainment and seeing many famous actors in the same movie. While the film is still solid, it's definitely the weakest release of the franchise and the seven out of ten points I'm giving here are maybe a little bit generous. Still, action movie fans can't obviously get around this movie as there are way too many gripping action sequences and cool actors around.

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  •  

    You can take this movie from two different sides.

    As somebody who is very much interested in history and geography and has studied both for many years, this movie is obviously full of mistakes and wrong stereotypes. It is almost as inaccurate as the "Spartacus" series. And this is never an original movie. We have all watched movies with very similar story lines about the evil Romans who want to control everything, the poor gladiators who stand up against them and the forbidden love between a rich young woman and a foreign slave. I can understand why many people are rating this film down. If you really want to watch a sophisticated movie about that time, go for the classic "Ben- Hur".

    What I think is strange is that all these stereotypes were highly predictable from the trailers only. I am asking myself why people even went to watch this movie if they were going to hate it for the reasons mentioned above. Some people just want to bash a movie and seem to have a very sad life if they waste their time watching movie they dislike so much.

    I went to watch the movie for something different. I wanted to watch a colourful movie with impressive sets and costumes and stunning 3D effects of an exploding volcano. I was eager to watch a fast pace flick with a lot of fighting scenes, some tension here and there and maybe a few love scenes with beautiful actresses. And I exactly got that.

    In addition to this, the acting was just good enough and included a few interesting characters. I really liked Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Jessica Lucas in this film even though they played stereotypical characters and could have had more screening time. If you are going to watch this movie for Carrie-Anne Moss or Kiefer Sutherland, please do not. They have been much better in other movies in the past.

     

    In the end, it all depends on you. If you want to watch an original and profound movie and learn something about the Roman Empire, just forget it. If you want to watch an effect ridden action adventure, you are going to like this. It is not the movie of the year but I surely had a great time watching it. 

     

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  • Non Stop (2014)

     

    "Non-Stop" is a solid action-thriller with the extraordinary lead actor Liam Neeson. I watched this movie because of him and even though he doesn't beat his best performances, Liam Neeson is absolutely convincing as cold-hearted human wreck and sorrow-ridden air Marshall. It's sad that his character isn't more developed in this movie as we never get to know whom he was talking to on the telephone in the beginning for example.

    The story itself is nothing new but could have been more convincing. The movie starts in a great way when the alcoholic chain smoking air Marshall gets text messages via a secure network on a flight from New York City to London, England. An unknown criminal announces that every twenty minutes a passenger will die if the air Marshall won't send 150 million dollars to an untraceable Swiss bank account.

    After an initial suspense, the story gets a little bit ridiculous when the first victims die. The first murder could have never been planned that way by the terrorists. The second murder isn't well explained either and even the third murder feels random even though it makes more sense than the first two. These are not the only plot holes in here. At that point, the story is running in circles, though. People are dying every twenty minutes, all characters are judging too quickly and the air Marshall loses control all the time. After a promising start, one just waits for something spectacular to happen but there is nothing more to this.

    Of course, we will get the so-called twist in the end and know who is behind the hijackings and killings. The solution though feels half- hearted and isn't really credible. It somehow doesn't make much sense to me. For me, this moment was a little letdown and the twist is (almost) more of a deus ex machina thing than anything out-thought.

    What else is there to say? Liam Neeson's acting is good and some secondary actors are doing a solid job as well but the characters represent too many stereotypes. It's the same for the story that feels as if one had already watched a similar movie before.

    The action scenes, special effects and the soundtrack are well done. The numerous text messages on screen get quite annoying and how could anyone write that fast as it's the case in the movie anyway?


    In the end, fans of Liam Neeson should watch this movie without a doubt. Anyone else will get a tension filled action-thriller without any big surprises. It's an entertaining movie to watch but also the kind of film that you will have forgotten in a few months. It's nothing truly impressive but still a good average effort. Instead of showing more or less convincing Hollywood cinema, I'm asking myself why the North American and European cinemas are not showing us more memorable and poignant films from Asia, Europe or South America.

     

    I was hesitating between six and seven points for this movie. The film is not overtly original but it's entertaining and it has Liam Neeson in it. Still, I was expecting more than this and that's why I went for the lower rating. Actually, 6,5 out of ten points would have been the perfect rating for me. 

     

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  • A Cry In The Wild (1990)

    This movie is a moderate budget television adaption of the critically acclaimed novel "Hatchet" written by the American author of young adult literature Gary James Paulsen. The short novel published in 1987 tells the story of a young teenager who has to survive for several weeks in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash.

    The main challenge of this eight-two minutes long movie from 1990 was the fact that the whole story is carried by the main character alone. Most of the novel and the movie takes place in the wilderness and features no dialogues but some soliloquies. Child actor Jared Rushton did an accurate job even though I disliked the fact that a sixteen-year old teenager played the role of an unexperienced thirteen-year old boy.

    Despite the solid acting, this movie sometimes feels like a National Geographic documentary that shows us incredible landscapes such as forests, lakes, mountains and waterfalls and a multitude of animals such as bears, porcupines, raccoons and wolves. This is definitely beautiful to watch but gets quickly boring.

    Due to the low budget, some scenes feel a little bit goofy. One can clearly see that the wild animals are trained and tame. The fighting scene between the main character and a bear in a lake even made me unintentionally chuckle.

    On the other side, a couple of scenes of this movie are actually filled with tension. Where the book sometimes gets too descriptive, the movie has a faster pace and the solid soundtrack helps up building some atmosphere. The sequence where dream and reality mix as the main character encounters a lone wolf is very well done and my favourite part of the film along with the campfire fighting scene. A few mildly shocking scenes in form of the eating of worms or the appearance of the pilot's ugly cadaver in the plane wreck added some spice as well.

    A few elements in the movie are different from the book. Some new ideas such as the covering with mud to protect from mosquitoes work very well. On the other side, the flashback scenes are a little bit redundant. The alibi side story around the divorce of the main character's parents is rather uninteresting in the novel and in the movie as well from my point of view.

     

    In the end, this short movie was quite entertaining and is worth to be watched once if you liked the book and the survival genre in general. Especially younger audiences should like this movie even though nothing beats the classic Enid Blyton movies of my childhood. Adults should rather go for survival movies like "The Grey".

     

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