I went in with relatively high expectations for this. All I had heard is it was John Wick-like, and I loved those movies. So I expected greatness, but I also thought there was a chance it wouldn’t live up to the hype.
Thankfully it does. It takes longer than you’d think to get going, there’s a few moments where you think you’re going to see him being violent but he doesn’t, but he later explains why and it’s perfect. It also means when the inevitable finally does happen, it’s beautifully cathartic, it had been building up to it beautifully. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t take the entire film to do that, in reality it probably takes about 15-20 minutes so it’s a good length, you don’t get bored waiting around for what you know will happen (like what happens while watching Ma, as you can see in this wonderful review by the smartest and sexiest person alive). The scene where it happens is truly superb, and gives a good indication of the difference between this and John Wick. Whenever you watch a John Wick film, the way he fights seems almost superhuman, so you’re amazed by what that person can do physically. Here, he doesn’t fight like he’s a superhuman god, he just fights smarter. He takes random opportunities to commit violence against them using unexpected ways. It’s not as flashy, but it’s definitely effective. It’s the way someone who’s actually training to fight would fight, not the way someone training to make a fight look good fights.
I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t expect Bob Odenkirk to be able to pull this off, I mainly know him from comedies, and in them he usually has a certain character he plays: someone quite smarmy who you can imagine avoiding physical confrontation. The kind of guy for whom when he’s married his most common phrase seems to be “yes dear” before being forced to do something he doesn’t want to do, the very definition of milquetoast. That characterisation plays into this though, everybody sees him as some meek person who’s incapable of defending himself. To the point where even the police chew him out for not killing someone.
I’m kind of conflicted on that aspect. The film has people say he’s not a real man because he doesn’t fight, but then they respect him when he does. So it’s saying the people are wrong, and that he is a man, but only BECAUSE he fights, if he didn’t do that, he’d still be nothing to them. So while it’s saying stuff about toxic masculinity, it is still weirdly perpetuating the followings of it.
It feels like action movies have moved more towards featuring older leads, especially since the success of Taken. But there are times in some of them where it stretches disbelief to see someone that much older (and sometimes out of shape) easily match fitness levels with groups of professional assassins much younger than them. This manages to make it believable by having him get the crap kicked out of him, but just keep going, and yet not fully recover from the injuries. Also, he makes mistakes while fighting, he misjudges distances slightly and hits his head on things. It makes it seem real. That’s what puts this film over the multitude of other action films, just how real it all feels.
I mean, it does go bombastic when it needs to. The scenes of him and Christopher Lloyd (yeah, he’s in this too) defending their building from a group of invading Russian gangsters (I’ll admit, the plot for this isn’t exactly original, it not only wears it’s influences on its sleeves, but also fashioned a tie out of them) are pretty badass. Actually all the action scenes are fantastic, but it spreads them out REALLY well. It’s not a constant barrage of fight scenes, it places them strategically when they would serve the narrative best, it’s one of the best examples of how to handle writing action movies, the film is not just an excuse to go from one action set-piece to the next, with the rest of the film just being filler. It uses narrative to justify the action as opposed the other way around. It does help that the non-action bits are still really good. They’re funny, interesting, and show great use of characters.
So yeah, go see it. It’s only 90 minutes too, the perfect length.