‘The Great Wall’ Review

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Director: Zhang Yimou

Writers: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro and Tony Gilroy

Cast: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, Lu Han, Hanyu Zhang, Kenny Lin, Eddie Peng, Xuan Huang, Ryan Zheng, Karry Wang and Willem Dafoe.

Synopsis: European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The Great Wall received a lot, and I mean a lot, of criticism when the trailer was released showing Matt Damon surrounded by Asian actors and by the look of it, saving them and China from monsters. After all of it, director Zhang Yimou and Andy Lau came out and said that was not the case, and that the character was always written to be non-Asian, but people still were angry – without watching the film. Now, that the film is out, I know people will still keep to their stance not seeing past Damon’s casting, but if you can get past that – especially seeing that Damon is the true savior of China in the film – we get a descent and passable action film.

The film follows William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), mercenaries that came from Europe to China seeking the fabled “black powder” to make them rich. However, they find The Great Wall of China instead with a massive army inside that call themselves The Nameless Order. Once within, they discover that China is under attack from monsters the Order have called the Tao Tei. Once they prove themselves to the Generals, including Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau), they are recruited to stop the monsters from breaching the Great Wall and attacking the world. However, Tovar and William are conflicted once the fight becomes more dangerous. Tovar wants to complete the mission they were on, while William wants to stay and fight.

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People will have their opinions about The Great Wall, but the way I looked at it – without spoiling it of course – Damon’s William isn’t the “White Savior” many thought he would be. Does he play a factor to the end game? Yes, there’s no denying that, but at least from what I saw, he isn’t the key to killing the monsters like many thought or the trailers would have you believe. Is he special? Sure, he’s really good with a bow. That’s it. Once you get past Damon’s weird accent, and sometimes what feels like wooden acting, William is a character drawn to two worlds. He’s a mercenary that kills for others and money, but once he meets The Nameless Order and Commander Lin, he sees there are other reasons to fight.

When it comes to the rest of the cast Pedro Pascal has great chemistry with Damon, and because of that I wished he had more screen time. Tian Jing’s Commander Lin has some great moments scattered throughout, and being the only real female character in the film it was good to see. Also, she’s not a love interest! She does have an effect on Damon’s William, but it more of a respect than romantic – although you can make the argument probably. Willem Dafoe on the other hand is pretty much wasted here. Besides adding some insight in what is going on, he doesn’t really do anything and could have been played by anyone else.

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When it comes to the action, it’s pretty good despite the massive amount of CGI monsters. That shouldn’t be too surprising considering the man that directed this in Zhang Yimou. From films like Hero and House of Flying Daggers, the action is pretty great and filled with great cinematography, and heart-pounding score that Zhang is accustomed to. Moreover, when it comes to the creatures, the designs aren’t that bad and their design makes them difficult to fill as well. Also, the fact that most TV spots or trailers never really fully showed them off was impressive.

All in all, people are going to have their opinions on The Great Wall as a film and politically, which is fine. I just hope people can look past that and find some enjoyment in the film. It’s not perfect, most of the characters don’t get enough screen time or are not even developed at all, and there a small subplot that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t do really anything for the film – at least personally. But, the end game of it all, the film is a passable action film.

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The Great Wall

3.5 out of 5

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‘John Wick’ Review

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Dir: David Leitch and Chad Stahelski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick and Ian McShane

Synopsis: An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

John Wick is one of those movies you would most likely not give a second look. The premise behind it is a tad wonky: An ex-hitman goes on a killing spree because they killed his dog. However, John Wick is a ton of fun and the action is so out there that you almost can’t help but enjoy yourself and have fun.

 

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John (Reeves) is mourning the death of his wife Helen (Moynahan) when he receives a puppy. The puppy, named Daisy, was her way for making sure John could cope with her loss. John looks like he’s doing okay until he goes out and ends up at a gas station where he encounters three gangster lead by Iosef (Allen). What seemed like just a minor annoyance becomes more when they break into his house, beat him up, kill the dog and steal his car. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst, to them, John Wick is a retired hitman who managed to get out of the life, but before he did, he was considered “the person you send to kill the Boogeyman.” Wick then comes out for one last job of revenge and will stop anyone who gets in his way. He then finds out that Iosef is the son of a kingpin that he use to work for in Viggo (Nyqvist).

 

The interesting thing about the movie is that is throws you into the criminal underground world. When Iosef steals Wick’s car he takes it to a chop-shop owned by John Leguizamo’s Aureilo, who immediately knows whose car is it, punches him and demands he leaves. When Aureilo gets a call from Viggo and asks for answers, he tells him what his son did and gets a reaction which borderlines funny, ridiculous, and serious. Wick never runs into anybody that isn’t a killer. He even stays at a hotel known as The Continental, which is run by Management, and is a safe haven/hotel for killers. There are also transactions done by gold coins. They have a code pretty much. This could also be a bit of a negative because when you see all of this, you kind of want to know more about this society, but we are left following John Wick killing people, which is okay.

 

Reeves could have gave Wick a wooden performance and taken the role to serious or even not serious enough. But Reeves gives a good range of emotions throughout the movie. Someone mentions that John looks vulnerable for the first time and Reeves actually gives us that. You do believe that John Wick was this most feared assassin by the way everyone treats him and takes him coming after Iosef seriously.

 

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Isoef (Alfie Allen) and Viggo (Michael Nyqvist)

 

The villains are rounded up by Michael Nyqvist’s Viggo, Adrianne Palicki’s Perkins, Daniel Bernhardt’s Kirill and Dean Winters’ Avi. Nyqvist is a no nonsense kind of guy and even punches his own son and calls him out when he finds out what he did. Winters doesn’t have a lot to do but give a couple comedic lines and be Viggo’s personal assistant. Bernhardt becomes Iosef’s protector and has some great fight sequences with John Wick. Palicki unfortunately is kind of forgettable, which is a shame because I do like her.

 

Willem Dafoe and Ian McShane pop up as old friends to John and are the last “members of the old guard.” But are only in the movie for short amount of times, but are still welcomed additions. Even Alfie Allen, who is the major reason why the events of the movie takes place disappears often and by the time he comes back you wish Wick would just kill him.

 

Of course, you’re not going to watch this movie for the acting. You’re going to watch this movie for the balls to the wall action. Well, you’re in luck because John Wick has that and then some. It’s appropriate because the movie is directed by stunt men David Leitch and Chad Staheiski, which shows during the action sequences because they are done so well and filled with combinations of martial arts and gun-play (or ‘Gun Fu’ as some call it) which leads to some brutal and some satisfying deaths.

 

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John Wick (Reeves) vs. Kirill (Daniel Bernhardt)

 

The action is great and you’re giving time to enjoy it. Killing for John is almost second nature. He makes kill after kill with extreme precious and doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone that has the great misgiving by being in front of him. One particular action sequence stands out to me and has a great combination of action choreography, background music, and cinematography. They care about the action and none of the fight scenes have shaky cam which action/fight fans will most likely appreciate. However, I will say the last shootout is a bit underwhelming, especially after the other scenes.

 

All in all, John Wick does have some missteps but overall is a hell of a ride. The story might not be sound or all there but the action sure as hell makes up for it.

 

John Wick

4.5 out of 5

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