Ava tries and fails to be the new John Wick.
The last time Keanu Reeves was in a relevant movie was in 2008 when he appeared in Street Kings, and The Day The Earth Stood Still. Since then, everything he was involved in was either too low key or too bad to mention. Keanu made his directorial debut in 2013 with Man of Tai Chi, where he played a villain, and the demise of Keanu was sung later that year when 47 Ronin arrived in theatres to mediocre reviews and bombed at the box office.
Keanu Reeves was the leading man of the 90s and early 2000s, but everyone was in agreement that the actor was done. But little did anyone know about a little movie called John Wick, which not only revived the star but opened him up to a larger fanbase who fawn over everything he does. Six years later, I can say John Wick is an action classic, and everything that has happened to Keanu in the last half-decade, couldn’t have happened to a better man.
Since the release of the first John Wick movie, the two movies took the film world by storm. Both sequels outperformed the preceding film while cementing John Wick as the greatest hitman with a golden heart in cinema’s history. But when a formula works repeatedly, there are going to be imitators trying to tap into the same fanbase, and over the last six years, we have seen some John Wick wannabes, and here is why they fail, with Ava being the latest one.
Ava was the Latest to Try and Imitate John Wick
Six years hence, Netflix tried to get a John Wick type of film with Polar. Critics panned the film, and even the viewers were less forgiving. Even the creators of the first John Wick movie tried to recapture the same magic with Atomic Blonde, managing to an extent but still a tame effort.
Ava, starring Jessica Chastain, was the latest movie to try and live in the same pocket the first John Wick movie created. Well, the result was a miserable failure as the start-stop action-drama movie wasn’t successful in either of their said genres. Trying to create a mystery around its character and the organization she works for, the film forgot what it was really meant to be and why John Wick is widely revered now.
The attraction to the first John Wick was the simplicity of the anger and pain the titular character was going through. There was no wife killing or daughter kidnapping to get the main protagonist angry. The disruption of John‘s peaceful mourning of the loss of his wife (to natural causes) was all it took for him to kill more than 70 people in the span of a couple of days.
Well, the villains did kill his dog, which, come to think of it, is somehow worse than anything else they could’ve done to him. But the mystery around the character of John Wick was not of his, or the filmmakers, making. It was the villains of the movie who held John Wick up to a standard that made them, and by proxy, us, fearful of what this man could do to all these bad-looking Russian gangsters.
I could have gone cold into the screening of John Wick and thought it was a romantic/tragic movie featuring John Wick, judging from the first 10 minutes. Ava ruined the whole allure of the titular character in the opening credit. Instead of making me afraid of Ava, the credit decided to show the audience her evolution from drug addict to globe-trotting assassin.
John Wick never once said how bad he is or took pride in the people he killed over the years. The movie never goes into flashbacks or background storytelling to let us know what happened to make these bad people fear one man. Only once does Victor mention what John did in a bar, but that is a microcosm of what makes the man John Wick.
Ava is a lousy attempt at imitating John Wick.
Ava tried to be mysterious from the jump, talking about management, which assigns killers to assassin targets. Ava is shrouded in mystery until she isn’t, and even with excessive world-building, I couldn’t help but scoff at the surface level tension the film tried to create.
The first John Wick movie was not about world-building. I can say with certainty most of the people who watched the first movie did not even care for the coins, except it is the currency used in the first 40 minutes of John Wick. The first John Wick movie was simply an angry and hurt man going after people who disturbed his peace.
World-building in John Wick came in the second film when the High Table was introduced, markers and call centers were set up. From a condensed movie, John Wick 2 expanded itself to a globe covering network connected to assassins all over. Ava wanted to be John Wick so bad the writers tried to condense three movies worth of story into a single film.
Also, another thing working against Ava was the runtime of the film. Whenever I see a serious movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes or less, with good to great actors in tow, I know there is something wrong with the end product. John Malkovich, Jessica Chastain, Common, Colin Ferrell, and other great actors were in the film, and Ava was duller than The Room.
Finally, all this rant was about the inherent lack of respect writers have towards the audience. Thinking we would take an action caper featuring a great actress without the story being fleshed out a little more is wrong. John Wick works because the creators of the movie allowed audiences to fill in the blanks, whereas John Wick imitators (Ava) fail because they try to spoon-feed the audience everything.
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