Tag Archives: 47 Ronin

Getting a kick out of ‘Wick’

You kicked my ass. You stole my car. You killed my dog. And now you will pay.

You kicked my ass. You stole my car. You killed my dog. And you did all of that right after my wife died. So I am in a colossally shitty mood. And now you will pay.

Are we experiencing a Keanu renaissance?

I have yet to see Man of Tai Chi, but between 47 Ronin and John Wick, I’ve been having a ball watch Reeves get his groove back. I wouldn’t argue that Ronin or Wick are great movies, but both are solid and Reeves is in his element.

Reeves isn’t an emoter. He can’t let it all hang out like Al Pacino or Nicholas Cage. It’s not how he works. He’s best reeled in, like Takeshi Kitano. One of Kitano’s finest works, Fireworks, is such because of how he limits his emotions externally. His character, Yoshitaka, has nothing left to give emotionally, spent after dealing with his wife’s poor health and problems on the job. He becomes nothing but action, his every movement in the now, his every thought about just handling the task before him. Reeves’ Wick is very similar, the death of his wife having sucked everything out of him. After Russian thugs, led by Isoef Tarasov (Alfie Allen of Game of Thrones), steal Wick’s badass Mustang, kill his dog and beat him senseless, Reeves doesn’t weep, scream, fall apart. There is nothing left for him but action, closure. And for the man known as “The Boogeyman” – not because he is the Boogeyman, but because he’s the man you send “to kill the Boogeyman” – that means blood, death and revenge.

It’s one of John Wick‘s greatest strengths, that clarity. When Wick finally fights his way through the Russian mob to get to Iosef, there is no long-winded diatribe, no confessions, no torture. Wick came to kill Iosef, so he does, quickly and without thought. Iosef is not worthy of Wick’s grief. He is a dangerous, vile pest to be crushed and tossed out with the trash.

Had it ended there, John Wick is a top-grade action flick. The humor related to the return/non-return of Wick to the hired killer game is dry and hilarious. The various players we meet all add something interesting to the mix, with solid performance by Wilhem DaFoe and Adrianne Palicki. Wick is also, as far as I know, is the only practitioner of gun-fu I’ve ever seen. Wick – in contrast to our old pal Neo – isn’t a great hand-to-hand fighter. But he’s a frigging Picasso with a firearm. So he’ll engage in some fisticuffs, but only to slow the attack, change the angle so that he can finish bad dudes with a gunshot to the head. Lots and lots of gunshots to heads. It’s a unique fighting style, one of the best features of Wick.

Unfortunately, John Wick didn’t end there. The final act gets dragged out, a few loose ends are dealt with unsurprisingly and Iosef’s gang leader father gets deeper into the mix until his anti-climactic final fist fight with our hero.

Don’t take this as a lack of endorsement of the entire film. If you’re an action fan, I’d recommend it. And if you heart Keanu, it’s well worth the time.

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Why ’47 Ronin’ is worth it

Let's get weird, shall we?

Let’s get weird, shall we?

I hate it when Hollywood chickens out on the ending.

Yes, Steven Spielberg, I’m looking at you. When I watched War of the Worlds for the first time, I was thrilled. It was the most fun I had watching a Spielberg flick since Jurassic Park. Yeah, it dragged a bit in crazy Tim Robbins’ basement, but still, it was mostly Tom Cruise, action sci-fi magic.

Until the end. You know, when the dead son magically reappeared for the big, warm, huggy family reunion. Because despite the evidence showing that all human life that was on the wrong side of the ridge when the aliens lit them up was incinerated to dust, Tom Cruise’s boy survived. Yippee.

I was miffed at best. I’ve pretty much refused to watch Spielberg since. It was just so galling, to undercut the tragedy of that moment and the degree to which it fueled Cruise’s character to work that much harder to save his daughter and himself.

(Spoilers ahead. You were warned.)

I thought that’s what director Carl Rinsch was pulling in 47 Ronin, as well. For acting against orders, the shogun demands the ritual suicides of the ronin. As they begin the ceremony and are about to disembowel themselves, the shogun halts the proceedings.

“Oh great. They’re going to $#@!& this up.”

But Rinsch didn’t. The shogun refused to end the bloodline of the chief ronin, allowing his son to be spared. Then, the ceremony resumed and the remaining ronin kill themselves.

Yes, it’s a tragic ending. But it’s true to the story. The ronin knew if they survived the attempt to free their lord’s daughter and avenge his death that their reward would be execution. That was the hill they had to climb. And they did so willingly and with honor.

If you’re looking for an Oscar winner, you’re in the wrong place. This movie has lots of genre-bending, supernatural, ass-kicking fun. It also has its faults. 47 Ronin attempts to do a little bit too much, there are some pacing issues and it’s probably too long. That said, it’s the best Keanu Reeves performance since The Matrix, and the movie as a whole stays enjoyably true to the kung fu and samurai film traditions from the far east.

And the ending brings it full circle, rewarding and, perhaps more importantly, respecting its viewers.

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