John Wick is just a simple movie about a man and his dog; okay maybe add a few guns, some gangsters and hit-men for good measure.
Keanu Reeves stars as John Wick, a former hit-man who tries to live a straight and normal life while grieving the untimely death of his wife.
A series of unfortunate events brings him back into the assassin fold to seek revenge on the Russian gangsters who took everything from him. They killed the man’s dog!
John Wick will never be confused as an acting tour de force with a deep storyline and intricate character development. Instead it is a straight up stylized action movie in the same vein as Taken, The Raid: Redemption or The Replacement Killers.
Keanu appears to be comfortable in his own skin when starring in these shoot ’em up action flicks. Let’s not make any bones about it, Shakespeare is not for him, but a role that involves gun wielding and kick ass martial art scenes is where the Canadian actor belongs.
Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, who are well respected Hollywood stuntmen and stunt coordinators, make their directorial debuts and get to work with a pretty cool cast.
Michael Nyqvist, who is known for his work as Mikael Blomkvist in the original Swedish Millennium series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) plays the big Russian mob boss Viggo Tarasov.
For you Game of Thrones fans, Alfie Allen, who is Theon Greyjoy in GOT, also plays a Russian gangster, who John Wick wants dead more than anyone.
You add the likes of Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, and two minutes of Ian McShane and John Leguizamo and you have a nice cast with a ton of potential.
The problem is you have all of these fine actors who don’t really get to do what they do best, and that’s act. Instead they are just fodder for revenge but I’m not complaining.
Keanu spends the entire movie in a state of a deadpan. In fact I think he speaks in monotone for the entire film, which in itself is pretty impressive even for him, but let’s not label that as acting range. Nobody plays the brooding hero type better.
Reeves does a good job with the material and actually provides some nice comedic timing with some of the dry wit.
There were some cool ideas in the movie like an underground assassin bar at the Continental Hotel and we also learn that making a dinner reservation for twelve doesn’t actually mean having a dinner party. I will leave it at that.
The fight scenes are very impressive and this is where the directors shine. Reeves has actually turned into a solid big screen martial artist. From Jeet Kune Do to Jiu-Jitsu, the very athletic fifty-year-old shows that he still has it when it comes to breaking bones.
The gun scenes are an ode to John Woo’s Hong Kong action films and it appears Stahelski and Leitch were also influenced by movies like Leon:The Professional and The Boondock Saints.
John Wick is not the first hit-man, revenge movie out there and it probably won’t be the last, but it is fun to watch.
Yes it’s formulaic and the storyline is sort of only there to provide us with reasons to see bullets fly, but for fans of the assassin movie genre it is fun way to spend ninety minutes of eating popcorn.
Check your local listings to see where John Wick is playing. Definitely not meant for kids or romantic date nights, unless it is your turn to choose the movie, which in that case it’s fair game.
I give this movie three out of five rain drops. It is a nice return of sorts for Keanu to the action movie realm and I can see John Wick being turned into a franchise or trilogy but don’t expect any Oscar nominations.
Now all Keanu has to do is return as Theodore Logan and we have ourselves a true Hollywood comeback. Whoa…