Catch Up Reviews: Dracula Untold, Kill The Messenger, John Wick, and Nightcrawler

Dracula Untold
Kill The Messenger
John WickJake Gyllenhaal / Nightcrawler

I’ve been on hiatus so here’s me catching up on the movies I’ve seen.

### Dracula Untold

_Dracula Untold_ is almost, but not quite, good. It’s much better than I expected, mainly due to the performances of Luke Evans as the troubled price Vlad and Charles Dance as the ancient vampire who turns Vlad into a literal monster.

The plot is predictable and the effects are passable but mostly it’s just kinda boring. There are a few unintentionally funny scenes and it’s convenient that Prince Vlad’s homeland is permanently overcast so his almost never has to deal with his weakness from the sun, but Charles Dance goes all in on creepy/crazy and Luke Evans does everything he can with the material he’s given to work with.

It’s annoying really because Evans deserves a big break at this point but _Dracula Untold_ ain’t it.

### Kill The Messenger

_Kill The Messenger_ wants to be one of those big, important, topical movies. It is that, but the topic is kinda done now. It’s weird to think that the 90s were 20 years ago now, and I’m glad that the story is out there, but while the film is good it isn’t great. Renner is a fine actor and everyone around him is good and his character is persecuted for telling the truth and normally that’s a recipe for all kinds of award wins but, again, the movie is just ok. Glad I saw it, don’t feel a need to see it again.

### John Wick

A thug breaks into a house, beats up the owner, kills the owners dog (a posthumous gift from his wife), and steals the owners car. The thug is the son of a mob boss and normally the mob boss is fine with this kind of behaviour but this time he isn’t because the owner of the house, the dog, and the car is John Wick, the greatest hitman in the whole wide world.

That’s the set up for this movie. It’s simple but not stupid. Keanu Reeves gets to go into full on rage mode, and goes on a rampage of revenge.

There are a couple of things that make this movie great.

First, Keanu Reeves. He’s willing and able to pull off the fight and gunlay choreography required of him and he’s a good actor, both things this movie requires. Much of the fighting is done in long-ish takes (10 seconds or so) so you can really see that it’s really him doing the work.

Second, said action is executed with a high degree of precision. There are maybe 5 wasted gunshots and strikes in the film _total_. Every other bullet finds its target and most of those targets are heads, and most of the punching and kicking is just to move a target into a better position for a bullet to enter his head.

Third, it takes place in a slightly fantastic New York where the criminal underworld is all connected and all the assassins in the city have their own underground economy powered by gold coins. This sounds silly –and it is– but it’s also awesome because the movie doesn’t ever talk about it, it just shows it and trusts the audience to understand. There’s no audience insert character, no “do you remember how this works” monologue. The world building is subtle and discrete and perfectly effective.

And last but not least, the rest of the cast. Reeves works as John Wick because he’s a bona fide movie star but more importantly the rest of the cast is rounded out by tried and true character actors like Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Michael Nyqvist, and Adrienne Palicki, each of whom bring their own certain _je ne sais quois_ to their respective parts.

Long story short _John Wick_ is great and if you haven’t seen it yet you should definitely check it out while it’s still in theatres.

### Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal is one of those actors who can disappear into a role so completely that I can forget that it’s him I’m watching. _Nightcrawler_ is one of those roles, too.

You won’t feel good leaving _Nightcrawler_. Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is a psychopath who begins the film out of work but soon finds that his complete lack of empathy makes him perfectly suited to the job of finding and filming crashes and crime for the morning news. “If it bleeds it leads” and Bloom is willing to just about anything to get the perfect shot including blackmailing the news director, sabotaging competition, re-staging accidents, and just about anything else you can think of.

It’s a pretty harsh indictment of how news in America works. There’s more I want to say right now but I think it would get too deep into spoiler territory but suffice to say that there’s nothing Lou does that the news desk doesn’t want him to do. To say it dabbles in moral grey areas would be the understatement of the year.

Nightcrawler may be one of the years best films and Gyllenhaal’s performance is definitely one of the performances of the year. The film is worth seeing for the latter, but there’s not a lot of bad things to say about this movie. So go see it already.