When you remove all of the comic book films, Transformers, Godzilla, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboots, and whatever the heck Dracula Untold and I, Frankenstein were supposed to be, you could count all of the year’s so-called action films on two hands. And I’m not talking your car porn nonsense like Need for Speed or Tom Cruise’s latest fun blockbuster extravaganza that allowed him to do all of his own stunts. I’m referring to the classic action formula of a guy, his gun, and a bad guy that has that guy walking into the sunset in the end after dispatching his own brand of justice. Call ‘em what you want – shoot ‘em ups, glorifications of violence, or just all-around mindless stupidity – but they’re typically my favorite movies.
I don’t grade these movies on the same scale as others, because they’re made for one reason – to entertain. If I pay $7 or $10 to see one of these movies, I expect to hear a lot of noise and see a significant amount of fake blood splattering all over the place. I also expect it to make little sense and be as unrealistic as it can be, because these are the movies I turn to when I want to let some blissful stupidity flow over me. Actual critics usually think that these movies are terrible, although sometimes we agree that they’re wonderful. Ultimately, it takes a lot for me to think that one of these movies sucks, but it’s not rare.
For example, I had high hopes for 3 Days to Kill, but it was bad. Not laughably bad, mind you, but so bad I shut it off twice and took three days to finish it (*laugh track*). Fortunately, I had movies like The Raid 2 (flat out awesome), Sabotage (intense in an over-the-top way), Brick Mansions (remakes are usually lousy, but pour some out to the homey Paul Walker), The Equalizer (Denzel Washington in a Hall of Fame badass performance), and The Expendables 3, which I didn’t enjoy as much as I wanted to, but still – it’s The Expendables, man. Even Lucy made me laugh at how dumb it was, but I’m not sure that one qualifies. Regardless, I’m bringing this all up for one reason – John Wick is here, and I couldn’t be happier.
Only two movies have made me squeal with delight when I saw the trailers this year – The Raid 2 and The Equalizer – and now John Wick is the third. Keanu Reeves stars as the titular retired hitman who is forced back into his deadly trade when some bad guys “take everything from him” and even kill… his dog. GET ‘EM, JOHN WICK! I’m sure a lot of people have seen the commercials and thought, “Big deal, it’s another bang, bang mindless action film.” And while only 14 reviews are in on Rotten Tomatoes, they’re 100% positive thus far, meaning that it’ll be up to our hero Armond White to ruin the fun.
What John Wick got me thinking about today was the action career of Reeves and how underrated some of his performances have been. He’s no Stallone or Schwarzenegger, and he hardly hangs with a Rock or Statham today. But he’s given us some of the biggest action movies of the last 20 years, as well as some cult classics in the process. So I wondered to myself – I just walked into a bar and there’s a bunch of bad dudes who want to hurt me in the worst way possible. If I could recruit one of Reeves’ best action characters to BRO up and THROW down with me, who would I pick? A finer challenge I’ve never issued to myself, but first a rule:
Neo is off the board.
Neo saved mankind by stopping giant robot killing machines with his mind, and even when he’s blind, he can see everything, so it’s not fair to pick him. Just about all of Reeves’ other characters, even those that weren’t necessarily action-based, are fair game. Obviously, Siddhartha won’t be discussed because he’d just try to find out why I’m so upset and how he can help all of the bad guys find peace, while David Allen Griffin was a coward who killed women. Also, Alex Wyler is out of the question, because he’s too busy writing letters to some lady in the future. So let’s examine my favorites…
Marlon James, I Love You to Death
Pros: He’s willing to kill someone.
Cons: He’s willing to kill someone for money, but he really sucks at his job. It’s not entirely his fault, because all of that extramarital sex made Joey practically invincible. But Marlon still really sucks at his job. Also, he’s really dumb.
Does he have your back? Probably not. He’d try to charge you for it and then spend the whole time smoking weed.
Ted “Theodore” Logan, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Pros: He plays a sick air guitar, for starters. He also has a radical time-traveling phone booth, and was friends with George Carlin. He showed that he’ll kidnap two women and take them away from their time, leaving them no choice but to become his and Bill’s wives. That’s pretty sadistic. And he grew a really evil-looking goatee by the end of Bogus Journey.
Cons: He’s a mostly peaceful guy. He’s also a dad, so he needs to set a positive example for the child and the future of the world since he’s also, you know, the inspiration for world peace.
Does he have your back? Only if you’re down to shred a righteous guitar solo on a cover of a Dio song.
Kevin Lomax, Devil’s Advocate
Pros: He’s a lawyer, so he’s trained to be argumentative and persuasive. He’s also the son of the Devil, which is, like, huge for evil bonus points. Most of all, Kevin is from Florida, so I know there’s some hidden toothless rage in there somewhere.
Cons: He doesn’t accept that he’s the son of the Devil and wants, instead, to believe that he can change the world for the better by being a great lawyer. He’s also so obsessed with his legal career that he’d probably sit back and wait for the fight to end so he can sue the guys who attacked you. Perhaps worst of all, he ignored Charlize Theron for his job, and you can’t trust a guy that isn’t focused on her.
Does he have your back? I doubt it. He’d probably schedule an appointment for you to meet with someone at his law firm after they remove your feeding tube and your jaw isn’t wired shut anymore. Maybe if you feed him some meth, though.
Donaka Mark, Man of Tai Chi
Pros: He’s a bad dude and loves watching guys try to kill each other. He’ll also get his hands dirty when the situation absolutely calls for it.
Cons: When sh*t goes down, he’d probably run for cover and let the police catch the bad guy instead, unless that guy is really important to him and “owes” him a life. Mostly, he’ll make other people do his nasty business for him, which doesn’t really help you.
Does he have your back? Aside from David Allen Griffin, Mark was arguably Reeves’ most diabolical/sinister character (although I never trusted that Alex Wyler and his time-traveling letters), but Mark was too good to do things himself, and he’d probably be like, “Tough luck, dude” and then tell the bartender that you’re covering his drinks.
Johnny Mnemonic, Johnny Mnemonic
Pros: He took down the Yakuza and a massive pharmaceutical company, which is impressive because he was just a courier who had a flash drive in his brain. He was also a close ally of the Lo-Teks, so knowing Ice-T could always come in handy in a real pinch. I’m not sure it helps in a fight, but he could talk to a super smart dolphin, but I have a feeling that was more of a pro for the dolphin.
Cons: Almost everyone around him was killed while all of the bad guys were trying to hack his brain drive, so that doesn’t bode well for you fighting next to him. It doesn’t help that he was suddenly able to remember everything about his youth, because that might have made him happy or something.
Does he have your back? Johnny is good at running and will only fight when the Yakuza, hired gunmen and a psychopathic priest show up to murder him and remove his brain from his head. You probably just hit on some guy’s girlfriend or lost a bet playing darts. You’re on your own.
Shane Falco, The Replacements
Pros: He was already in a bar fight against professional football players, and Falco proved he can take a punch. He previously hit rock bottom and spent his days cleaning the bottoms of boats while playing football underwater because he was ashamed of his past. A man with nothing left to live for will always go down swinging.
Cons: He always needed his teammates to fight for him, and Danny Bateman and the Jackson brothers (and more importantly their firearms) won’t be there to fight in his place. So he’ll land a punch and then get his ass kicked. At least Paul Blake punched Flat Top, got thrown behind the bar and then jumped back into the action in Necessary Roughness. Also, Falco ended up winning and presumably getting a new pro contract (according to The Replacements fan fiction sequel that I wrote in my mind) so he actually has something to lose.
Does he have your back? Down-on-his-luck Shane Falco always has your back, because he’s a loser and will take some literal and figurative punches. But successful Falco is going to sit this one out, because he has to set an example for his team. Whatever, jerk.
Johnny Utah, Point Break
Pros: He quit his job as an F-BEEE-I agent, so he doesn’t really care about the law anymore. As a former athlete, Johnny’s in good shape and if there’s a power ranking of Keanu’s John characters, it goes 1) Utah, 2) Constantine, 3) Mnemonic, 4) Harker, and 5) Don. I haven’t seen Generation Um… so I can’t include Wall, and I’m hoping that Wick jumps to the top of this list by Friday. But that’s all an entirely different conversation. Utah’s also full of rage and “young, dumb and full of cum,” so he has a quick temper.
Cons: He’s a quitter and more likely to let a guy surf himself to death than take matters into his own hands. Also, if there’s a girl involved, he’ll give himself up to protect her, and romantic dudes are chumps. Most of all, if Utah has a gun, he’s more likely to fire it into the air in rage than he is to take out a dude’s kneecap or maybe shoot the light fixture above him so it falls on him and knocks him out.
Does he have your back? Utah would be good to have by your side in a fight, but he wouldn’t be the most effective, not without his Zen master surfing buddy or some FBI backup around the corner. Hell, if you’re up against Warchild and Tone, you’re probably screwed.
John Constantine, Constantine
Pros: He can visit hell any time that he wants, so he’s got that going for him. Also, the Devil doesn’t like him, but at least he respects him. Constantine knows how to kill just about every kind of bad guy out there, so chances are he’d end a bar fight quickly with that big-barrel cross gun of his and then step outside to chew a piece of gum.
Cons: Ugh, he probably has Shia LaBeouf hanging around all the time, begging him to let him help out, so when one of the bad guys eventually kills him by slamming him into the ceiling and floor repeatedly, you’re probably going to be distracted by sheer joy, and then you’ll get the same treatment.
Does he have your back? Constantine is a loner and a man focused on stopping evil from conquering Earth. If you’re picking fights with guys who are actually just swarms of bugs shaped like humans, then he’s your guy. If not, he’s probably going to pass.
Kai, 47 Ronin
Pros: He’s obedient, faithful and well-trained by both the samurai and people with the sideways blinking eyes, and he proved that he’ll die for the right cause. A huge pro on his side is that if he has the right sword, he can deflect the fire that is shot at him by a woman who can morph into a dragon. I don’t know many people who can do that, so he really has that going for him.
Cons: At the same time, I don’t see too many of those dragon women at the bars I hang out at, and if they are there, I’m obviously doing my best to not piss them off. Kai also fights with “honor” and other such nonsense, so the bad guys would have to be threatening him or the princess in a really terrible way, otherwise he won’t join in. Worst of all, if he did fight for you, he might take his own life afterward, and then you’d have to plan his samurai burial. What a mess.
Does he have your back? If you’re a disgraced samurai, he’ll join you. If not, he probably thinks that he’s too cool. “Thanks for nothing,” you’d yell as someone was cracking your ribs with a pool cue.
Jack Traven, Speed
Pros: He’ll do whatever it takes to stop a bad guy, because that’s his job as a law enforcement officer. The worse the guy, the harder he’ll try to stop him, and if it calls for decapitation, he’s willing to do that, too. What’s even more amazing is that he took a dude’s head clean off and didn’t get a drop of blood on himself, so you could probably even get out of the bar and use the “If I was in a fight, why don’t I have the guy’s brains fused to my face?” defense.
Cons: He lets the woman drive, for starters. I mean, women drivers, am I right? But seriously, folks, the only drawback with Jack is that he’ll leave you after all the action and make you fight your next bar brawl with Jason Patric.
Does he have your back? For my money, the guy who is willing to decapitate the villain is the guy I want standing next to me in a fight. Especially if the fight ends up taking place on top of a subway car. But I’m not picky.