Fury and John Wick are currently playing in theaters
John Wick (2014) – Rated R
“An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.”
My wife and I often use Keanu Reeves as a yardstick for casting. Keanu appears to mostly have one “Speed” of acting. He is quite good at anything requiring posing (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Speed, The Matrix) but umm less so when heavy acting is required.
I was not expecting much at all from first-time directors and producers, David Leitch and Chad Stahelski. They both have extensive backgrounds as stuntmen and second unit directors. This includes heavy work with Keanu on Constantine, Man of Tai Chi, and the Matrix movies.
In spite of having stuntmen as directors, John Wick is a little heavy on CGI, particularly for the blood. CGI, in general, has come a long way but blood and fire effects still need work and tend to pull one out of the immersion.
The plot is quite overwrought. John Wick loses the love of his life, the woman he gave up being an assassin for but that’s okay because just after she dies, he receives a puppy as a present so he still has something to love. That is besides his incredible house and awesome muscle car. It is not long before the villains steal the dog, trash the car, and kill the house or something along those lines.
Having written all of that, one would expect the film to bomb. Thankfully, John Wick is quite good. Keanu is definitely in his element here. He looks good in action, strikes nice poses, and has some good one-liners.
Being professional stuntmen, Leitch and Stahelski have a healthy respect and good eye for action scenes. To their credit, they eschew the use of jumpcuts and jitter camera. These simple choices make the action a lot of fun.
Most of the characters are not developed but merely various archetypes. That said, one character in particular is simply wonderful. That is The Continental Hotel. This is a hotel that caters specifically to criminals and where guests are not allowed to harm each other. Lance Reddick (The Wire, Fringe) plays the hotel manager to perfection.
If you like action movies, go see John Wick.
Fury (2014) – Rated R
“April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and his five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.”
Well I suppose we haven’t had a World War II movie since Monuments Men. Monuments Men was an excellent idea that was hampered by a rather haphazard and somewhat indifferent execution.
That pretty much sums up Fury as well. The attempt to convey the realities of tank warfare in World War II is fairly successful but the dramatic story of the five man crew is pretty pedestrian and pedantic (alliteration for the win).
Brad Pitt is Wardaddy is the battle-wise tank commander. A nearly unrecognizable Shia LaBeouf is Bible, the religious member of the crew. Jon Bernthal is Coon Ass, our beast of a crewmember (honestly, with as on the nose as the script is, I expected his nickname to be ‘beast’ or ‘animal’). Michael Pena is Gordo, our token minority. Finally, Logan Lerman plays our fresh, idealistic recruit, Norman.
The combat scenes are fresh and interesting. They try to showcase all the different aspects of tank combat. Not only are there many different Sherman tanks on display but they actually have a Tiger I tank, a first for a Hollywood production.
Obviously, Fury does not hold a candle to Saving Private Ryan as Fury’s characters don’t really gel as characters but if you want to see some Tank combat, Fury will fit the bill.