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

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Léon (1994)

Leon

Director: Luc Besson Cast: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman

After her drug-dealer father and other family members are murdered, 12-year-old Mathilda seeks refuge with her mysterious neighbour, Léon, who turns out to be a professional assassin. Mathilda persuades Léon to teach her how to kill, while they become, er, close friends.

Before getting into what I didn’t like, I’ll starts with some positives. Although the film covers some heady subject matter, it does so with a very dry sense of humour and you quickly warm to both Mathilda and Léon (and Léon’s best friend, a house plant). Mathilda’s persistence softens Léon and gives him a companion that he never had, which is a touching side of a story that is pretty much about murder. It’s probably my favourite performance of Natalie Portman’s (after my earliest experience of her acting was The Phantom Menace, which has permanently tarnished my view), and there’s no cringe factor like there often is with child actors. Additionally, Mathilda at only 12 years of age is probably the edgiest dresser I have ever seen.

However, while I don’t agree with the outcry about this film regarding Léon’s and Mathilda’s unconventional relationship, I don’t see why the script makes Mathilda believe that she is romantically in love with Léon. It would have been enough to just make her love him like a father, as he loves her like a daughter, and this wouldn’t have taken anything away from the plot. For them to simply grow to love each other like father and daughter would be enough to make us still sympathise with them and enjoy their character development. My other criticism is about Gary Oldman’s bad guy. Although he is suitably maniacal, we don’t really know too much about him and why he’s become like that, so it doesn’t really seem realistic.

I enjoyed this film overall and it has a satisfying ending. I wouldn’t say that it’s suitable for family viewing (in the slightest), but it’s not super heavy viewing so would be good for a Saturday night in.

3 stars