Review: John Wick
PLOT: A former hit man is forced back into the business after a brutal attack from an old colleague’s entitled and vindictive son.
REVIEW: Welcome back Keanu Reeves. In his latest action revenge drama JOHN WICK, the actor gives a full-throttle performance that makes it easy to believe he is completely capable of the hell he takes on. With a simple story – almost ridiculously so – this uber-violent flick takes the viewer on an intensely exciting ride. This is thrilling stuff that is sure to please action and Reeves fans in spades.
Reeves portrays the title character of JOHN WICK. All we know about him early on is that he has recently lost his wife, he loves his car, and he received a puppy from his dying spouse as a final gift. From the get-go he is a charismatic and cool character who just wants to be left alone to mourn. When he stops by a gas station to fill up the tank, a group of thugs led by Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, TV’s “Game of Thrones”) take a liking to his precious car. When they ask how much, Wick states that it is not for sale. Tarasov and his bullying pals don’t take kindly to this, so they track down the car and decide to invade John that night and take every last thing that he loved.
When Iosef’s father Viggo (Michael Nyqvist) finds out exactly who his son stole a car from, he takes all precautions to protect him and his family. We soon find that Wick is one of the best and most successful hitmen in the business who finally settled down and retired to be with the love of his life. And now, after losing everything, a little retribution is at hand. From then on, we see one action-set-piece after another as Wick gets closer and closer to finding his own justice, while he himself suffers a setback or two.
First time director Chad Stahelski clearly knows how to create a suspenseful action sequence. Coming from a stunt background, the car chases, the fist fights and the barrage of gunshots fill the screen in an almost operatic way. This is no cheap spectacle. Along with cinematographer Jonathan Sela, he creates a visually impressive movie that is loaded to the brim with intensity. Far more violent than most American movies, this brutal display has more akin with something like OLDBOY from Chan-wook Park as opposed to the uninspired Spike Lee remake. It is an impressive display with only a couple of moments that hint at repetition.
And then there is Keanu Reeves. The role of John Wick seems tailor made for the action star. In fact, this may be his best performance to date. He is wonderfully sympathetic, especially when it comes to his relationship with the puppy – animal lovers be warned, there is some tough stuff here. Every step of the way I bought Reeves as the badass who is continually pulled into this violent and corrupt world. His response to the barrage of characters asking if he is back in the game of killing seems to come from a very real place. Perhaps there was a hint of reluctance to take on another action film, but Reeves proves he still has the magic touch for the genre when given the right material, as is the case with JOHN WICK.
As a man who used to work with Wick, Nyqvist is a perfect villain. After all, he is trying to protect the moronic actions of his entitled son. Clearly he respects John and knows just how far he will go if pushed. When he offers a reward for the vengeance driven hero, a number of exciting actors have an incredible time trying to get in on the mayhem. Adrianne Palicki is a delight and holds her own especially well against Reeves. And once again, Willem Dafoe delivers a fantastic performance as a man who may or may not be a threat to Wick. While most of Iosef Tarasov ruffian pals are one-note, it is still a pleasure to see them taken down one-by-one.
With very little in the way of expectation when it came to Reeves' latest – I hadn’t watched the trailer before I saw the film – it was one of the most satisfying American action films that I’ve witnessed in a while. The script by Derek Kolstad may seem a bit far-fetched at times, but the simplicity of Wick’s need for revenge was completely sustaining. This is the most entertaining Keanu Reeves action vehicle since THE MATRIX. JOHN WICK is a wild and bloody ride that hardly lets up until the final frame.
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