John Wick (2014)

Director: Chad Stahelski Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki

An ex-assassin is forced back into work when a gang rob him in his own home. Unfortunately for them, his wife has also just died so he’s on the rampage.

You know those days when you’re already in a bad mood, it’s raining, it’s Monday, and then a colleague that you don’t like anyway does something to set you off? We’ve all been there, John Wick, we’ve all been there. Aside from the clearly very relatable nature of the film, John Wick is a very slick and very cool movie with the perfect balance of action and storyline. I remember when I watched Top Gun way back I loved the action scenes but there just weren’t enough of them, while there was far too much romance and bleurgh that just was not interesting. John Wick however provides just enough characterisation for us to sympathise with John and to know who the baddies are, but most of the film is just super-cool fighting and shots of New York. Because of this, there is very little plot and it’s extremely easy to follow, but you don’t necessarily always want intricate storytelling which takes effort to follow- especially with such amazing cinematography and style to keep you entertained.

Now, mention Keanu Reeves and it’s fair to say many people will be put off. However, in this he’s perfect for the part. Keanu’s not known for his dramatism and ability to convey deep emotion, but that’s why he works so well in this. He’s great at the action sequences (not too different from the Far-Eastern style that inspired The Matrix), and his serious and unflappable nature befits an assassin well. Willem Dafoe makes almost a cameo appearance, because he’s in it so little. Not totally sure his character added much to plot and whether anything really would have changed if he was taken out, but still he was pretty cool so we’ll let him off.

I would absolutely recommend this as the perfect Saturday night at home movie. Easy to follow, beautifully shot, loads of action, no time wasted on romance and drama- and did I mention very cool?

4 stars

The Hateful Eight (2016)

Ⓒ Double Feature Films
Ⓒ Double Feature Films

Director: Quentin Tarantino Cast: Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins, Channing Tatum, Bruce Dern

Set around the time after the American Civil War a bounty hunter, whilst taking a prisoner back to town to be hanged, finds himself in a snow storm and ends up taking shelter in a secluded cabin with a group of strangers. It soon turns out that there is a plot amongst the group to free the prisoner, leading to suspicion and intrigue, and an inevitable Tarantino bloodbath.

Given that Tarantino’s previous film, Django Unchained, is my favourite film of all time, I wasn’t expecting that this would be better. But I also expected to enjoy it more than I actually did. The film starts off superbly, with an awesome soundtrack that builds an unnerving sense of foreboding, and amazing shots of the Wyoming wilderness in the snow. From the outset, the cast is excellent: Samuel L Jackson brings a nice touch of comedy as always, while the others too fit well together and effectively bring intensity in a movie that is mostly filmed in one room.

However, while the film begins promisingly, I found it soon started to drag and it got, well, boring. The film is split into chapters which gives it the feel of a play, but for me it was just far too slow. Things start to liven up when it becomes certain that someone in the cabin is plotting with the prisoner, but just as I had started to enjoy trying to work out who it would be, the answer is revealed and the audience doesn’t really get a chance at guessing it themselves. And once that’s revealed, it’s just a case of winding up the plot and seeing who gets got first.

Like I say, the film definitely has the feel of a play to it and I think it would work better if it actually was a play, because that would be more what you would expect. As a film it’s just too slow. Having said that, there are positives: the cast carries the film, and there are classic Tarantino elements such as the soundtrack and humorous amounts of blood. It’s very long so not ideal if you’re looking for something lightweight, but fans of Tarantino will find it manageable.

3 stars