The Matrix Resurrections

The Matrix Resurrections

By: Kevin Jordan


Way back in 1999, the idea of a Matrix sequel was a no-brainer. Neo had just destroyed Agent Smith, warned the artificial intelligence that he was going to set everyone’s minds free, and flew off into the sky like Superman. Four years later, the two-part sequel released and were a bit of a letdown, to say the least. We got what we asked for, but were disappointed in what we got. At that point, we realized that the original Matrix was a unique moment in film that probably should have been left to stand by itself. I’d like to think Hollywood learned its lesson and that’s why there aren’t sequels to Interstellar or Inception.

Of course, Hollywood’s lizard brain usually makes the decisions because MONEY!!! Now we have another Matrix sequel – Resurrections. And, not just any sequel, but a sequel that doubles as a remake. This makes sense when you consider that pretty much everyone disliked the sequels, so what better way to atone for them than to bring back as much of the original as possible? And, since it’s The Matrix we’re talking about, a reboot/sequel can easily be explained because <insert computer jargon here>.

(SPOILER ALERT – There is no spoon.)

In case you did not see how the trilogy ended, Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) die. Not in the Matrix, but in the real world. The film ends with the Oracle and the Architect discussing if the peace between humans and machines will last and agreeing to free any humans who wish to leave the Matrix. It’s a pretty definitive conclusion to the story, with the only untied string being a final question – if we will see Neo again – thrown in because Hollywood just can’t resist.

Decades later, the Matrix is stable and the human city of Zion has been renamed Io and filled with humans no longer worried about killer sentinels coming for them. The film opens with a replay of the original film’s opening scene. You know the one. Trinity (or a woman who looks very much like her) is in a deserted hotel room, cops bust in to arrest her, and she does the kick where bullet-time cinematography blows our minds away. Except, this time, different agents chase Sort-of-Trinity, and we’re watching it from behind a wall with Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and a hologram of Bugs’ handler, Sequoia (Toby Onwumere). This piques our interest, especially when Trinity is captured on a rooftop, rather than escaping. At the same time, Bugs ends up being discovered by an agent and another chase ensues, where she ends up trapped in a secret room with an agent. But, not just any agent, but one that is actually a program embodying Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). Bugs helps him escape the Matrix and into a body consisting of nanobots in the real world. Confused yet? Welcome to the new Matrix.

It turns out that many of the machines decided to cooperate with the humans and help them with various tasks like growing strawberries. No, seriously. Blueberries too. This will freak out Neo, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Neo (who is back to his ignorant human self, Tom Anderson) is now a prominent game-developer in the Matrix. He is most famous for creating the Matrix game, which is the movie’s way of winking at the audience in a quasi-fourth-wall-break kind of way. Incidentally, the movie will also make multiple references to the original trilogy in the same way, including kind of taking a dump on bullet-time. Then, the movie will tell you how Warner Brothers is forcing another Matrix sequel and, geez, we get it already.

Anyway, Tom is seeing a therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) because he is struggling to keep reality and fantasy separate in his head. Tom is also having meetings with his business partner, Smith (Jonathan Groff), who Tom also discusses his struggles with, in addition to the new game Tom is working on. A montage of days go by where we see Tom continuing to struggle, ingesting blue pills prescribed by his therapist, and having daily brainstorming sessions with his developer group about the Matrix sequel. We all know this can’t last, but we also are wondering how Tom is even alive, since Neo died in the old trilogy. Then, Trinity shows up in a coffee shop when Tom is there and we’re like “finally!” Except, Trinity is just a mom named Tiffany, with two kids and a husband and we’re like “oh, come on!”

Eventually, we get to the part where Tom is freed and becomes Neo again, this time by Bugs and Morpheus. There is gobbledygook about Neo having created a modal for them to find (the original Trinity scene), but we have no idea what that means. I work with software developers all day and I have never heard that term. But the film is going to pretend that the audience isn’t completely confused and just move on with what it really wants to do – nostalgia.

And thus we come to the real issue with this film – what is the point besides nostalgia? The nostalgia is laid on so thick that we literally see clips of scenes from the original trilogy sprinkled throughout the film. In addition to the modal, Agent Smith reappears, but as Tom’s business partner (Groff), we get a tweaked reprise of the dojo training scene with Morpheus, Neo’s body being retrieved from the battery-pod, and even the Merovingian because why not? And still we’re wondering, how is Neo/Tom still alive? And, Trinity/Tiffany for that matter.

Well, I’ll leave that explanation for the movie to give you, and you should know that it is long. Really long. And done in a way that Lana Wachowski (Lilly was not involved for this film) thought was clever, but comes off as a bit of a slap in the face to the audience. To be fair, maybe that slap was just to wake us up because the scene is just so boring. The villain has the ability to move at Quicksilver speeds and monologues while everything around him, Neo included, barely moves. It’s not a fun scene to watch nor is the monologue particularly interesting. The entire scene reinforces the notion that the original film was a unicorn.

Throughout the film, I kept wondering what the actual story was and what was at stake. The first film very clearly establishes the stakes – saving the human race. The two sequels continue with the same concept – saving the human race, with the subplot being the love story between Neo and Trinity. Resurrections does not appear to care even a tiny bit about the fate of the human race, even going out of its way to point out that there is a peace between humans and machines to the point they are literally cooperating with each other. Instead, the film really leans into the love story that was over at least one movie ago.

(Side note: one element of the story is that the machines are at war with each other over an energy shortage. This makes no sense for so many different reasons. Why can’t the machines build something that goes into space to collect energy? Are the machines reproducing themselves like humans, with no regard to resource requirements or how much the planet can sustain? Does artificial intelligence really just mean acting like stupid, selfish, violent humans?)

Convoluted story aside, maybe the most disappointing aspect of the film is that nearly all of the aesthetics from the original trilogy are gone. The martial arts and fight choreography were practically non-existent, the bullet-time is gone and even derided by the movie, and the score was both unmemorable and often didn’t fit the tone of the scenes. Plus, the sheer amount of footage spliced in from the original trilogy became tired. At first it was cool, then it just felt lazy and unnecessary. It was like watching a flashback episode of a sitcom, which is always the episode you could tell was done out of sheer convenience for an easy paycheck.

Don’t get me wrong. I did somewhat enjoy going back to the Matrix and there were some bright spots. The actors not named Reeves and Moss were clearly thrilled to be in a Matrix movie. While Reeves and Moss all but sleepwalked through a script that gave them little to do, the rest of the cast was relishing a chance to be as cool as the original cast looked (especially Groff, who really made Smith his own). To be fair to the film, I’m going to watch it again, and maybe there are things I missed that will make me enjoy it more. I just did this with James Bond: No Time to Die and it was definitely better the second time around. Granted, I enjoyed No Time to Die on the first viewing a lot more than I enjoyed Resurrections. Maybe I just need another reboot.

Rating: Ask for seven dollars back for what felt like discount Matrix.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

By: Kevin Jordan

Difficulty: Evil. Cheat mode: Enabled.

I like how cocky the John Wick franchise has become. The first film’s title was simply John Wick. No fanfare. Just a dude’s name. John Wick grossed $88 million on a $20 million budget, coupled with an inexplicably high 85% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Brimming with confidence, Summit Entertainment and Thunder Road Pictures (among others) doubled the production budget and title words for the sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2. The bet paid off with the film grossing $171 million (double the first film) and garnering an 89% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In February. That is impressive for a movie that is barely more than hundreds of murders strung together by well-shot choreography.

With their pockets full of cash, the production companies have made their boldest bet yet – spending $55 million on a third John Wick installment, adding a chapter title – Parabellum – and opening the movie in mid-May with Avengers: Endgame still dominating theaters and just one week before everyone plunks down their cash to watch the Will Smith-fronted, live-action remake of Aladdin (Smith playing the Genie). All joking aside, the release date looks like a major mistake, as Aladdin is immediately followed by Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Dark Phoenix, Men in Black: International, and Toy Story 4, on consecutive weekends. Despite currently sporting an 89% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Parabellum is most likely going to die a quick and gruesome death at the box office. Much like nearly everyone in the cast of Parabellum.

(SPOILER ALERT: If you have not been paying attention to this franchise, there really is nothing to spoil since anything resembling a plot has never been seriously considered by the writers of this franchise. Unless body count is a spoiler.)

Parabellum picks up immediately where Chapter 2 ended, give or take a few minutes. We last saw John (Keanu Reeves) being given an hour head-start by the manager of the Continental Hotel, Winston (Ian McShane) before every assassin in New York City starts trying to kill him. Back in the tattooed-lady phone room, the murder contract on John is set at $14 million. While Wick is making his way to a weapons cache (presumably), one of the tattooed ladies is dutifully reciting the time remaining at regular intervals in a telephone.

Do you really want to know?

(Not to get sidetracked, but who exactly is she talking to and why? We know it isn’t any of the assassins (ancient dialing machines are seen spreading the contract information to individual phone numbers) and we can safely assume that every assassin can read a clock, as can the other tattooed ladies in the room. It’s not even useful for the audience because there are clocks everywhere and John himself keeps telling us how much time is left.)

As a reminder, the one thing this franchise beats us over the head with is that there are kinds of rules dictating the assassination business. As I’ve noted in the previous reviews of the franchise, the writing is, to put it delicately, dogshit, so it is not the least bit surprising that Parabellum can’t even wait for its own deadline to kick off the action, breaking the hallowed (and undefined) rules almost immediately. With a few minutes left in John’s hour, the first assassin takes on John, noting that nobody will notice a few minutes and John calls him out on his premature assassination attempt. I would never have remember this line if for not for a) 117% of the movie’s dialogue mentioning the rules and b) a doctor (after patching up John’s stab wound) telling John to shoot him because “they’ll know I told you where the medicine was,” where being on the top shelf of a cabinet in his office. The idea of the all-seeing and all-knowing eye of the High Table is the second-most quoted thing in the movie after the rules, so it is comically poor writing to have back-to-back scenes contradicting that idea.

Rules are made to be broken.

While Chapter 2 at least made an attempt at some kind of plot, Parabellum shoots that plot in the face, delivering us 131 minutes of mass murder interspersed with an adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) dispensing High Table punishments on everyone who helped John in Chapter 2 and the beginning of Parabellum. This includes Winston, as well as the hobo-king (Laurence Fishburne) and the ballet queen (Angelica Huston) and an attempt on the Casablanca equivalent of Winston, Sofia (Halle Berry). Want to know more about whose these people are? Me too and I saw the movie.

For the third movie in a row, the franchise refuses to dive into its underground/not-so-underground assassin world or any of its characters. Every time the movie stops for a moment and someone starts talking, I got interested. Finally, they are going to flesh out some of th….oh, John is killing more people. *38 dead people later* Ooh, ooh, ooh, someone is finally explaining the High Table and, dammit John, can you please just not kill anyone for five minutes? We desperately need some exposition here. Aaaaaand, he just shoved a shotgun up the exposition’s ass. *Sigh*

Wick isn’t the only one killing everyone in sight.

The most telling sign that this franchise has worn out its welcome is that the screening audience noticeably tired of the non-stop death. During the first action sequence, people were laughing and audibly cringing and having fun. As the movie drug on, the laughs become more sporadic until finally disappearing altogether around the ninety-minute mark. The second act somewhat revived the audience with a pair of ninja-dogs clamping their teeth on multiple assassins’ dicks (literally, the assassins’ actual dicks) while John and Sofia head-shotted their way through countless enemies. Bt, by the time the climax rolled around, the death and murder had become so tedious and mind-numbing that the audience was over it. True, a handful of people did clap at the end, but I’m pretty sure they were actually slapping their own faces to wake themselves up.

Essentially, the entire franchise is a video game, each entry bringing diminishing returns. Yeah, the fight choreography is still really good, but the high volume of bad guys causes the audience to notice how truly choreographed it is. You can literally see John’s opponents not fighting in order to allow him to defeat dozens of people simultaneously. It’s the punching equivalent of how the bad guys have the worst aim when shooting while the good guys score perfect kill shots with every bullet (which, incidentally, is also featured in this film and franchise). It’s like if you set the difficulty in Call of Duty to evil, then entered in a bunch of cheat codes. Sure, you’ll get to the end, but it’ll feel like a waste of time when you get there. Just don’t get cocky about it.

Rating: Ask for all of your money back and play a video game instead.

John Wick: Chapter 2

By: Kevin Jordan

Murder, death, kill.


It’s been two and a half years since John Wick murdered scores of people over a dead dog and stolen car and I still don’t understand how that movie scored an 85% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  It was easily one of the worst written movies of 2014 that somehow got a complete pass because of action scenes that were one take instead of 84 million (a.k.a. the Michael Bay).  I get the reason why regular American audience members liked the movie – action, kill, death, action, Mustang, blood splatters, action, death.  There’s a reason why the NFL is the most popular thing in this country and that fights are the most talked about part of hockey.  We loves us some bloody violence.  So of course Summit Entertainment was going to make a John Wick 2, especially when John Wick grossed $80 million on a $20 million budget.  I just don’t get how critics weren’t foaming at the mouth at a movie with far less plot than a high school graduation ceremony.

Going into the sequel, I wanted two things to happen in the film – 1) explain anything in this mystical underground assassin world and 2) have something resembling a plot.

(Note: This is the point where I would generally give you the obligatory SPOILER WARNING, but there’s nothing to spoil.  The title alone tells you John Wick won’t die in this film because it’s Chapter 2 and not The Final Chapter.  You also know he’s going to kill somewhere in the neighborhood of an entire neighborhood because this would be a weird sequel if he didn’t.)

The movie opens with more of the same dumb shit that littered the entire first film.  The uncle (Peter Stormare) of the Russian dog murderer has John Wick’s car and John (Keanu Reeves) has come for it.  Here’s the conversation between the uncle and a henchman (paraphrasing):

Henchman: “What’s this guy want?”

Uncle: “We have his car.”

Henchman: “Why don’t we just kill him?”

Uncle: “It’s John Wick’s car.”

Henchman (with disconcerted look): “So…just send more guys.”

Uncle: “He’s the boogeyman.  Did you hear about the pencil?  He once killed three guys with nothing but a pencil.  Who does that!?”

Henchman: “Why don’t we just give him his car back.”

Uncle: “Because he killed my nephew.”

Oh, so you’re going to make the same dumbass mistake as your brother?  The one who ended up getting himself and all of his men killed even though he spent half the movie talking about how John Wick made a Terminator cower inside the actual boogeyman’s vagina?  At least the brother was trying to save his son (even though he threatened to kill his son himself).  Just give him back his car.  Or are you just looking for a quick way to replace your workforce?

Thankfully, this movie has a plot, though one that quickly devolves back into John Wick getting revenge again.  Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls on John to fulfill a promise John made in the form of a “marker” containing John’s bloody fingerprint.  The marker is essentially an I.O.U. that can be redeemed for anything.  In this case, Santino wants John to kill his sister, Gianna (Claudia Gernin), so Santino can take over her seat at “the high table.”  What is the high table you ask?  Beats the hell out of me.  Like the first film, this movie introduces new concepts of the assassin world and never bothers to explain what they are or mean.  All we know is the table has twelve seats and Gianna controls New York City maybe?  John initially refuses, stating that “no seriously, it is literally impossible.”  Santino leaves John’s house, then blows it up in retaliation for John’s refusal.  Here we go again, right?

I'm guessing those mirrors aren't going to last very long. Kind of like him.

I’m guessing those mirrors aren’t going to last very long. Kind of like him.

Well, not quite so fast.  John goes to the Continental hotel (the safe-haven from the first flick) to consult with Winston (Ian McShane).  Winston says those are the rules and that John is lucky Santino didn’t just outright kill him.  Of course, Santino needed John’s help, so blowing up John’s house with John still in there seems like a bad way to change John’s mind, especially if he’s dead.  Whatever – the point is that Winston tells John to nut up and honor the marker.

You know that impossible task I just mentioned?  Well, turns out it wasn’t so much impossible as it was Hitman on novice level.  Literally as soon as John completes the task, Santino’s men and head henchwoman, Ares (Ruby Rose), attempt to kill John because Santino says he must avenge Gianna’s death.  Huh?  Isn’t that against the arbitrary assassin rules of the Continental?  Whatever – the point is that the rest of the movie is John exacting revenge on Santino.  The only difference between the rest of this movie and the first movie is that there isn’t a James-Bond-villain-leaving-the-laser-room scene involved.  Just lots and lots (and lots) of death.

What happens at the pretty much nothing.

What happens at the Continental…is pretty much nothing.

On the positive side of this movie, there are better looks at this underground assassin world that don’t leave you scratching your head in confusion.  Remember the dead-body cleaning crew that shows up at John’s house in the first movie right after the cops literally see the bodies and walk away?  That crew was pointless because John could have thrown the bodies into a wood chipper on his front lawn and the cops would have helped him.  This time, there is a standard “gearing up” scene in which John goes to an arms provider and they have an absurd, but fun exchange where John is ordering his gear as if he is ordering food, at one point saying “and I’ll have some dessert as well.”  The marker was also another good component of this world that gets a full treatment instead of a cursory mention.  Finally, we are shown a 1940’s-style operating room where tattooed women plug in those old telephone cords on switchboards, utilize pneumatic tubes, and operate an 1980-era computer to communicate hit contracts to all the assassins.  The room doesn’t actually matter to the plot or movie at all, but somebody had some fun spending money on that set.

That’s not to say they don’t pile on more unexplained world stuff.  Besides the high table, we are introduced to Laurence Fishburne’s homeless spy network that might be as powerful as the Continental (which is a world-wide chain, by the way), or just a bunch of homeless assassins indebted to a crazy pigeon guy, or some sort of rebel faction within the assassin world.  We also learn that pretty much everyone in New York City is really an assassin, even the mother feeding her baby on a park bench.  And, we still have no idea what the hierarchy of this whole world looks like.  You’re right – who cares when you get to watch John perform another pencil trick.

I decided to take the blue pill.

I decided to take the blue pill.

In order to enjoy this movie (and the last), you really do have to ignore everything for the action, which isn’t that hard to do.  Somehow, Reeves’ acting got even worse, though the director and writer share a lot of that blame.  I’m pretty sure Reeves’ dialogue does not include a sentence longer than one word (you’ll see what I mean).  The movie continues the awful multicolored subtitles that even Michael Bay has never stooped to and he gave us racist transformers.  And definitely don’t try to understand Santino’s motivation because they don’t explain anything about that guy.  He’s just that kid at Thanksgiving dinner that is throwing a tantrum about not getting to eat at the adult table, even if he presumably has all the cake he could ever want.  Just sit back and enjoy some good old-fashioned, American ultra-violence.  What else are you going to do now that football season is over?  Read?

Rating:  Ask for seven dollars back.  It satisfies your need for dumb action flick and that’s all you can ask for in mid-February.

John Wick

By: Kevin Jordan



When I walked out of the theater at the Mall of America, there was this girl surveying people about the movie they just watched.  Here is how that conversation went:

Her: Did you just come out of a movie?
Me (thinking: I just walked out of the theater, what do you think?)
Me: Yes.
Her: What movie did you just see?
Me: John Wick.
Her: Would you mind answering some questions about it?
Me: (smiling like an insane person) I’d be happy to.
Her: On a scale from one to five, five being the best, how would you rate this movie?
Me: Zero.
Her: (incredulously) Really?!
Me: Yes, it was that bad.
Her: Why was it that bad?
Me: I generally prefer my movies to have some modicum of a plot.
Her: Would you recommend this movie to your friends?
Me: …
Her: Of course not, since you gave it a zero.
Me: You got it.
Her: Would you be willing to sign up for emails for future free movie tickets?
Me: I don’t live here.
Her: Ok. Thanks and come again.
Me (thinking: I don’t live here.)

I wasn’t really sure if I was going to write a review of John Wick, but on Monday I read that it had an 86% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  That is not a typo; 86% of critics liked a movie whose entire plot is “Keanu Reeves slaughters scores of men because one guy stole his car and killed his puppy.”  And I’m not talking about back-handed positive reviews; the vast majority of them were glowing reviews with ratings of three to four stars out of four, or B+’s or A-‘s, or eight or higher out of ten.  I’ve been reviewing movies for a long enough time that when I think a movie is complete shit, the majority of other critics do too.  So, of course I decided to write a review, but since there isn’t much to say about a movie that is nothing more than a series of choreographed fight scenes, I thought I’d read some of those favorable reviews and ridicule those critics.  And, boy, they didn’t disappoint me.

(Note: Every one of these reviews can be found via Rotten Tomatoes.)

Richard Corliss, Time Magazine – “Quibbles aside, John Wick is the smartest display of the implacable but somehow ethical Reeves character since the 2008 Street Kings.”

Is it really considered ethical if a person murders more than 80 people when only three of them wronged him?  And, over only a stolen car and dead puppy?  Maybe Mr. Corliss doesn’t know what the words “smartest” and “ethical” actually mean.  Or “quibbles”, for that matter.

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone – “I know, it sounds basic to the point of brainless.  Don’t let that discourage you.”

Do let that discourage you.  Are you ready to advise your friends to spend $10 or more to be brainless for two hours?  Some friend you are.

James Berardinelli, Reel Reviews – “John Wick is a rousing action thriller of the sort rarely encountered in theaters these days.”

This is how the review begins!  (1) This movie is not rousing unless by rousing he means roughly one dead body per minute of running time.  (2) Does “every couple of weeks” still count as “rarely”?  Fury is less than two weeks old and The Equalizer just a month old.  Shit, The Equalizer is essentially the same movie, except its lead is slightly older and slightly blacker.

Mr. Berardinelli continues – “There isn’t much of a plot, but that’s often the case with revenge-based tales. Movies of this sort aren’t about narrative depth, they’re about taking a hero through an increasingly difficult series of bad guys until he comes face-to-face with the Big Boss.”

In other words, this movie is a plotless video game that you don’t even get to play.

One more from Berardinelli – “My biggest gripe (and it’s not a big one) with John Wick‘s presentation is the prologue flash-forward which adds nothing to the narrative progression while telling us pretty much how things are going to end.”

That’s your biggest gripe?  Not the complete lack of story?  Not the complete lack of character development?  Not that in a movie trying to be a throwback to 80’s action flicks there isn’t a single female breast exposed?  Or even a naked butt cheek of either sex?  This guy’s bar is set so low the only way you’d know it existed is if you tripped over it.

Forrest Wickman, Slate – “The laconic screenplay stays away from high-minded dialogue. (The two lines that got the biggest laughs at my showing were both “Oh.”) Instead, it relies on visual storytelling, as when the killing of Wick’s dog is crosscut with flashbacks to the death of his wife, to show us Wick sees these events essentially the same way: as evidence of an unjust world.”

Ok, technically he’s right, but this movie doesn’t even feature low-minded dialogue, as evidenced by Mr. Wickman himself, when his only memorable quote from the movie is “Oh.”  There is also no visual storytelling since there is no story and nothing ever indicates Wick is motivated to correct injustice.  In fact, the opposite is conveyed, in that he is a retired mob killer/enforcer and he sees the killing of his dog as the rekilling of his wife.  He’s not dishing out punishment to correct Mr. Wickman’s imaginary injustice; he’s out to kill the guy that interrupted his grieving (and kill pretty much everyone else as well).

Scott, Three Movie Buffs – “On the few occasions when he does stop, the story wobbles a bit. The worst cliche in the film happens when the head of the Russian mafia captures Wick for a short time. Despite the fact that Wick has proven to be possibly the deadliest man on the planet, instead of killing him right away, the mob chieftain decides to talk to him for a while and then, in the best tradition of James Bond villains, walk away when he wants Wick killed, which for some unexplained reason is to be by suffocation instead of a quick bullet to the head. The mobster then follows this stupidity up with another stupid move at the film’s climax, just when everything has been settled.”

It’s impossible not to notice how idiotic this scene is.  Seriously, how does this shit still appear in movies?  The head mobster reminisces earlier in the movie about how he once saw Wick kill three guys with a pencil and how Wick “…isn’t the boogeyman; he’s the guy you send to kill the fucking boogeyman.”  Didn’t it occur to him that Wick just might escape handcuffs, a chair, and just two henchmen?

Scott continues – “If you’re a fan of action movies, this one is almost impossible not to like.”

Hold on, Scott.  You just told us that the film contains one of the dumbest tropes/clichés of action movies, plus that the story “wobbles a bit” when the action breaks (“wobbles” is a polite way of saying sits on its own nutsack and falls off a ledge) – how can this movie be almost impossible not to like?

Louise Keller, Urban Cinefile – “The script is clever in that we slowly get to understand the code by which everyone lives. There are rules and protocols including special waste disposal teams who arrive on call, to efficiently remove bodies and all signs of carnage – for the price of a gold coin.”

At no point do we ever get to understand the code by which everyone lives.  There is no code.  The closest thing we get to a code is in the hotel where John stays where “nobody is allowed to conduct business on its grounds.”  That’s it.  There are no rules or protocols.  The “special waste disposal team” is not special at all (nor clever or even unique).  In fact, they serve no purpose to the movie or “story” at all, considering the two places they clean up are never seen again.  Piling on is the fact that the police literally see the freshly killed bodies in John’s home and do nothing more than wish John a good evening.  The clean-up crew could have fed the bodies into a mulcher on John’s front lawn while making small talk with the cops and the movie would not change in the slightest.

Cynthia Fuchs, PopMatters – “John Wick isn’t any of that: he’s a veteran, a retired super-assassin of such renown that only his name need be mentioned for hard-faced killers and kingpins to reveal just the slightest quiver of concern…It also offers you a chance to feel smart about the genre…

Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian – “What Allen’s bratty-ass punk Iosef didn’t realize was that John Wick used to be the top hit-man for his father Viggo (Michael Nyqvist).”

So, if John Wick is so renowned, how is it that the kingpin’s own adult son and his son’s two lackeys have never heard of John Wick even though Wick has only been retired for five years?  Did dad seriously never scare his idiot son (yes, his dad feels this way about his son) with stories of the guy who could kill the boogeyman with a pencil?  Did dad seriously never introduce his son to John even though his son would presumably be taking over the business and John was their best killer?  Does dad secretly want his son to die?  Your guess is as good as mine, but none of them will make you feel smart.

Chris Swain, Examiner – Title of review: “One of the best action films of 2014.”

“Unfortunately the film is very basic and that may be a red flag for some. “John Wick” is an at-surface-level kind of film without a lot of depth. It’s a simple revenge story where the action is supposed to outweigh any other shortcomings. The dialogue is extremely lacking at times and the story is a little weak.  Another feeble moment is the big fight scene that the film builds up so much, which has a beyond anticlimactic conclusion.”

No – Popeye was a little weak when he didn’t eat his spinach.  John Wick’s story is a limp dick that no amount of Viagra or Cialis could ever shore up.  More importantly, how can John Wick be one of the best action films of the year while it is very basic without a lot of depth, contains extremely lacking dialogue and a feeble conclusion, and uses action to outweigh other shortcomings?  Doesn’t that describe a movie like Gangster Squad, which has a 32% Rotten Tomatoes score?  When Chris Swain saw X-Men: Days of Future Past or Guardians of the Galaxy or Edge of Tomorrow (you know, actually great action films) did he just pee all over himself in ecstasy?

Bruce Ingram, Chicago Sun-Times – ““John Wick” doesn’t offer much in the way of a plot. It’s a standard-issue revenge thriller, basically, about a reformed assassin who breaks out his old hit-man kit for personal reasons. But that just means there’s not much story to get in the way when Mr. Wick decides to uncork some retribution.”

Yeah, don’t you hate it when story gets in the way of telling a story?  I mean, who needs that shit?  I’d also like to point out that Wick isn’t a reformed assassin, he’s retired.  A reformed assassin doesn’t go on a killing spree over a puppy and a ’69 Mustang; he goes to therapy to talk it out and probably just buys a new dog.  Well, maybe a reformed redneck assassin goes on a killing spree, but not a normal reformed assassin.

Stephanie Merry, Washington Post – “Even his old boss calls him the Bogeyman, because when you need to off the Bogeyman, you call John Wick.”

This bugged me throughout the entire movie.  The boss makes a point of telling his son that Wick is NOT the boogeyman, then calls him the boogeyman for the rest of the film.  Maybe he was distracted by the subtext featuring goofy comic book font of certain words when he spoke in Russian.  I know I was.

Merry continues – “The story, especially toward the end, is a lot less important than those fight sequences. But early on, smart, funny scenes attempt to answer questions other action movies don’t address. For example: How do our invincible heroes navigate car chases so ably? In this case, we see John Wick practicing his skills amid obstacles in a parking lot. And what happens to all those dead bodies? Here, there’s a jaunty cleanup crew.  But John Wick has a more interesting story and better fights than most…”

There’s a lot wrong with these few sentences, so let’s just hit them one by one.

(1) The story should never be less important, let alone a lot less important, than fight sequences ever.  This is not Street Fighter.

(2) Has anyone ever wondered about the hero’s driving skills when that hero is a highly trained assassin?  If the answer to that is yes, you were probably shaken as a baby.

(3) Wick isn’t practicing in a parking lot; he’s practicing on a runway.  Where the fuck are you parking when you go to the airport?

(4) Who cares what happens to the bodies?  If you don’t give a shit about the story over fight sequences, how can you possibly give a shit about proper housecleaning?

(5) No and no.

Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly – “And the screenplay by Derek Kolstad (2012’s The Package) is a marvelously rich and stylish feat of pulpy world-building…They’ve taken a broken clock and lovingly restored it with Swiss timing and precision.”

Mr. Nashawaty is clearly vying for Hollywood shill of the year with this absurd quote.  I know EW openly whores itself out to the studios, but this is a new low even for them.

Scott Mendelson, Forbes – “In an era when some of the best old-school action goes the DTV route (think Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning),…”

“What could have been a generic “reformed hit man takes vengeance after a personal loss” story is enlivened both by the quality of acting and action (more on that later), but by the rich world that has been created.”

“John Wick is the real deal. It is a terrific action picture, filled with strong performances by a game cast, along with superb action set-pieces and a genuinely interesting world to boot.”

There are many ways to tell when someone is totally full of shit, but none are as obvious as a movie review appearing in a financial magazine and an author claiming Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is one of the best old-school action movies out there.  Nature invented syphilis for guys like him.

Neil Miller, Film School Rejects – “Even better, John Wick also sports an interesting premise and a surprisingly sharp bit of world-building not normally seen in your average shoot ‘em up.”

Okay, that’s several times now these people have cited great world-building.  Either my brain quit during this movie or these people watched a completely different movie than I did.  The world-building I saw, at best, hinted at an underground world.  This movie would have been far more interesting had they actually developed any (ANY!!) of that world’s characters or locations, but the action never stops long enough for any of that to happen.  We know there are assassins (Adrianne Palicki, Willem Dafoe), we know there is a Russian mob and crime syndicate, we know that Mayhem from the All-State commercials (Dean Winters) is completely wasted, we know there is a special hotel where Ian McShane drinks cocktails and Lance Reddick tends the desk, and we know they use gold coins that look like those chocolate covered coins you get for Easter every year.  We know nothing else; no explanations of any of those things.  That’s not world building, that’s throwing shit at a wall and not caring why anything sticks.

Tom Russo, Boston Globe – “We’d be up for seeing John Wick get pulled back in again, but with good cause.”

We are all doomed.

The thing that stood out among all of these reviews (besides the insipidness) was they all loved the choreography and that was enough to forgive everything else in the movie.  Except, these same people trashed Michael Bay’s flicks even though nobody does special effects and visuals like Bay and at least Bay makes attempts at telling a story beyond “guy kills everyone in sight.”  So, again I ask – WTF?

Rating: Apparently, if all you want is near non-stop killing and action, it’s worth your money.  If you care about any other component of film-making, you will want all of your money back and a survey-girl to talk to.