Synopsis: An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Dean Winters, Bridget Moynahan, Ian McShane, John Leguizmo, Willem Dafoe
Director: Chad Stahelski & David Leitch
Running Length: 101 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: For a while, it seemed like the age of Keanu had passed…not that anyone really noticed. Lampooned endlessly for his surfer dude line readings and tendency to make even Shakespearean dialogue sound like he was ordering at Burger King, if you look over his credits over at IMBD you’ll see an impressive list of work that spans various genres and A-List directors. As of late, Reeves has been doing some more work behind the camera only coming out occasionally for films like the troubled 47 Ronin in 2013.
So it was with mild trepidation that I ventured into an early look at the latest Reeves opus to hit the big screen, a dark revenge action flick that pulls no punches and lands nearly everyone it throws. While it’s not the revisionist career-defining moment for Reeves (that most surely came with The Matrix) it’s a wake-up call to those who thought his career was on life-support.
These revenge dramas are all the rage as of late, buoyed by the endless Taken films that even by the first sequel had already felt played out. I was nervous that John Wick would fit into that category of trashy style over substance trifles but what we have here is a film with grit, muscle, blood, and bone…and a sophisticated one at that.
I’m usually not a fan of movies that open with the ending and then flashback but John Wick starts off with such an unexpected bang that it’s a forgivable sin. Recently widowed Wick hasn’t even had time to clear out his wife’s side of the bathroom counter before two important things enter his life. The first is an adorable pup intended as his companion and the other is a Russian mobster’s son that takes a liking to Wick’s classic car. When Wick loses more than his prized car, he retaliates by using the skills he employed in his younger days as a killer for hire.
Part of the fun of John Wick is Derek Kolstad’s script which lets us peek behind the curtain at a society of professional killers (like Adrianne Palicki’s wicked Ms. Perkins) that may be deadly assassins but who also live by a code of honorable ethics. If one of their own breaks this code, there’s hell to pay — just one of the many pleasures the film offers up to action hungry viewers. As John goes after the son of former employer now city kingpin (Michael Nyqvist, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) the bullets fly and limbs break in several gloriously staged sequences of ultra violence.
Co-directed by Reeves’s sometime stunt double Chad Stahelski (along with fellow first time director David Leitch) , the film has an appealing slate of bad guys/gals that all take their turn putting out John’s, um, wick. Playing out against some well-designed set-pieces lit by a neon glow, the film feels more alive the as the bodies pile up. Unafraid to spatter blood all over the walls and our lead actor, the filmmakers wisely resist the urge to let the film drift into camp territory. There’s no extraneous dialogue or character development happening here — it’s an efficient film at every turn.
A clear audience-pleaser if the screening crowd I saw this with is any indication, John Wick is a nice fall surprise for those naysayers that wrote off Reeves a decade ago, serving as a nice reminder that the actor can still pick a winner.