Movie Review: John Henry2nd January 2021
The Disney animated piece and this Terry Crews-led Netflix adaptation are, I assume, connected in name only. John Henry follows the inevitable reconciliation period of a man ignoring his brushes with the law. A quiet, brooding character that tries to lead an honest and straightforward life is shunted back into the fray by circumstantial run-ins with hoodlums and a need to do the right thing. Crushing several stories, ideas and tropes all into a tight ninety minutes is neither a good idea or an original one. Still, what better way to spend our time than to rush through a horribly teed up action flick that relies on the name value of Crews.
Our hero is introduced to us through shoddy songwriting. “He can hammer, he can whistle, he can sing”. Perhaps the worst collation of powers for a hero to have, John Henry sounds more like a cheery carpenter than an action hero. Not so much inspired by John Wick as it does wholly steal its concept and hammer it with a pipe, our leading man’s crusade of justice is kindled by the hit and run of his dog. Why that scene is included, I don’t know, retconned almost immediately for the broader thrills that come with the rescue of a Spanish teenager on the run from various gangs and criminals.
Nothing comes of this design; the muted colours of Will Forbes’ direction manage a loose and unwieldy story that progresses just where you’d expect it to go. A couple flashbacks to detail why Henry has been so moved by these sudden acquaintances, and then some horribly brief action. John Henry relies on the story and elements of its dialogue not out of choice, though, I can’t imagine any director would consciously choose to make this action flop story-driven, but here we are. Reformation is at its core, the useless resistance Henry puts up to stop his inevitable return to the dark underbelly of LA crime is predictable and farcical, but cannot be tossed away since Forbes and his cast need to keep up appearances. They need to convey even the slightest of moments that could take this narrative anywhere but predictably disinterested scenes of an underwhelming nature.
Comically poor, moments of tension destroyed by a trivial and amateurish editing and directing style. Forbes has tried his best, honestly, he has. His best just seems to show signs that he has chosen the wrong career path. Panicking his way through a film that shouldn’t try so hard, he offers up a resolute example of how poor a quality Netflix often present. Nothing out of the ordinary, other than a genuine concern for the state of action films. The light and breezy days of Commando and Face-Off are long gone, in their wake lies a string of detestable films that offer little in the way of, well, action.