So you’re making a film about a hitman who has left his past behind for family and a simpler life only to be brought back into the action after his home is invaded. Who do you cast? Well, the guy who was Neo, Jack Traven, Constantine and Johnny Utah of course. Step up Keanu Reeves, here is your new signature role. That was seven years ago now and sure enough John Wick started off a successful run of films, part four of which is due out eleven months from now.
When you want to do the same thing again, which is exactly what has happened here with John Wick writer Derek Komstad also being the author of this film which has exactly the same premise, who do you put in the lead this time? Well the obvious choice would be a woman; Sandra Bullock, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry or Uma Thurman maybe. No though, not wanting to be predictable in this one respect at least, they’ve gone instead for Father March from Little Women. Yep, it’s Marshall’s crazy boss from How I Met Your Mother – Arthur Hobbs, Coach Jimbo, Bill Oswalt, Saul Goodman, hello Bob Odenkirk.
The angle here is that Odenkirk is an older guy (even though he’s actually only got two years on Keanu Reeves) and not the type you’d be expecting to see in this sort of film. If it all seems like a retread though, even down to our hero getting mixed up with the Russian mob because one of the kids that crossed him has family connections, this small change is enough. Nobody is a huge amount of fun. Oh yes, there’s that too, this does not take itself as seriously as John Wick, especially now that that series has become weighed down by its own mythology. Odenkirk, it has to be said, is great in the lead.
There is little point in discussing the plot any further, the joy is in the ride the film takes you on. The fight scenes are not as balletic as in John Wick, this shares a writer but not a stunt coordinator, but there is still plenty of invention here. There are casting treats beyond Odenkirk as well as Hollywood legend Christopher Lloyd (he’s a legend to me anyway) turns up in a key supporting role. He’s more Judge Doom than Doc in this but actually he’s neither yet the part suits him just as well as either of those.
It’s nothing new then but it is hugely enjoyable and at only ninety two minutes it is as efficient as it’s protagonist.
The Ripley Factor:
Having not made this a female centred film they dig down on this by not really having any women of any great significance in it all. Connie Nielsen takes the standard wife and mum role which is a bit of come down for her as the last time she played a parent it was as the mother of Wonder Woman and queen of the mighty Amazons. Here her greatest service is to judge her husband for his level of manliness in the face of violence which does not feel as progressive.