John Wick: after his wife dies thugs steal his car and kill his dog, which forces former assassin and ‘bogeyman’ John Wick to go on a rampage of Archer proportions. No need to worry about the Bechdel Test with this film – as the only two women with dialogue appear as a video recording, and a sassy female hit-woman. No need to worry about the plot either, as it’s based around a hotel where assassins live and party with each other – and gold coins are the preferred payment method. Whilst Keanu isn’t the most watchable of frontmen he handles is action scenes with style, and Nyqvist, McShane, Dafoe fill in any gaps with fun roles. Reminiscent of 90s European / Asian action movies like Taxi, District 13, Hard Boiled etc – this is all about the guns, cars, pounding techo music and hyper styalised violence, of which there is shitloads. The action scenes are second to none: graphic and wild gunplay (most villains get ‘double-tapped’ – chest then head), there’s excellent combat which incorporates wrestling holds and slams, and a couple of nifty car chases. One of the directors is a stunt man, which shows as the action scenes are a cut above your standard affair. John Wick is a rarity these days – a no-brainer, balls out, gritty revenge / action film, that sticks to its R-rating and doesn’t claim – or try – to be anything more. It’s the kind of film that Taken 3 wishes it was.
The Counselor: when a lawyer invests in a drug smuggling operation that goes south, the world around him collapses. This movie essentially comprises of a heap of dragged-out scenes where fine actors deliver lines that probably looked great in a script, but end up coming over as quasi-biblical, pears of faux wisdom “that would sound totally rad in the trailer, man.” Some of the conversations were so vague and non-directional that they felt intentionally cryptic for no reason. The other distracting aspect was the ridiculously over-luxurious, decadent and excessive lifestyle of every protagonist; lavish clothes, jewels, cars, props, and even animals – it feels more like you’re flipping through a high-end fashion magazine. The casting here is crazy-good, and the quality of actors is world-class, there’s even some great flashes of acting – but it’s all crushed under the weight of great expectations. The most fun you can get out of this is playing the “OMG it’s that guy” cameo-spotting game, with the likes of Toby Kebbell, Dean “Hank” Norris, Donna Air, Rosie Perez, Bruno Ganz. And seriously, does Cormac McCarty just sit at home thinking of new ways to kill people all day? In a nutshell, The Counselor is too arthouse-y for it’s own good – and the distracting stars, lifestyles, plot, and “that would be cool in a film” conversations make it all feel like a surreal advert – aimed more at getting punters in the screen, than delivering a decent film. You can’t help but feel disappointed that a cast/director/writer this good have produced something so ordinary and forgettable – when compared to a lesser cast and (arguably lesser) director doing balls-to-the-wall a film like Savages. The Counselor is a ridiculously convoluted (although NOT as hard to follow as people have made out) that lets us know immoral actions may have grave consequences – ahhh duh duh duh duh!
The Lincoln Lawyer: follows a defense attorney that will represent any scumbag if the money’s right, but his latest case isn’t all it seems. First off, this is way, way better than the trailer makes the film look. Being based on a successful novel, the story’s rock solid, and stands up to the best court-based dramas out there at the moment (i.e. The Good Wife). There’s plenty interesting developments as the story moves forward. It’s also quite slick and really well made; the standout shot being the long revolving one in the courthouse. From out of nowhere McConaughey’s is excellent as a streetwise southern lawyer and Phillippe rises to the challenge with an equally believable performance. It’s a little slow in the 3rd quarter, and could have probably done without the last 15 minutes (everything after the major verdict) but hey ho, it still works well. Sack the casting director too; putting in two of the three most obvious latino typecasts working today. I was pleasantly surprised walking out of the cinema after this, well worth your time if you like your legal-flicks, topped off with a superb bluesy/R&B soundtrack.