John Wick, 2014.
Directed by Chad Stahelski.
Starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane and Lance Reddick.
A former hitman comes out of retirement hell bent on revenge for the men who took everything from him.
After a few dud movies and some time away from the spotlight, Keanu Reeves returns to the action genre with the blistering John Wick. A former hitman for the Russian mob, Wick has turned his life on his days of crime and settled down with his wife (Bridget Moynahan). Unfortunately she dies from cancer and he is left alone except for an adorable Beagle puppy which she picked out for him. All Wick has is his dog and his car, until a boisterous young thug called Iosef takes an interest in his car. Wick is beaten, his car stole and his dog is brutally killed. This is the final straw and what proceeds is 101 minutes of pulsating action.
Directed by former stuntman Stahelski, John Wick is a refreshingly violent action film that puts Reeves firmly back where he belongs. He first dipped his toes into action with Point Break before delivering the sublime Speed and the genre defining Matrix trilogy. Here he is again at age 50 and he looks as if he can really take every single punch and kill an entire room full of people with ease. The action set pieces are filmed extremely well and a scene mid-film in a night club is executed expertly. Instead of editing and shaky camera work, Stahelski gives us wide shots where we can see the gritty action giving each fight scene an energising feeling. The camera moves with Wick and the audience see every punch he gives and every trigger he pulls. If there’s one thing you can rely on Reeves for, it’s good quality action. He does a majority of his own stunt work and at age 50 he still looks and moves like a man of 30. John Wick may sit within the recent trend of aging actor actioners, but it’s nothing like The Gunman or the Taken series which take themselves far too seriously.
In terms of storyline, John Wick is a standard affair and there aren’t many twists that you won’t see coming. Characters are introduced but not developed and it would have been good to see how Wick originally came to be a hitman. There is an impressive cast on show, with Michael Nyqvist superb as slimy villain Viggo as well as Willem Dafoe and John Leguizamo providing solid support. However, there isn’t enough of the supporting characters, Leguizamo appears briefly at the beginning and Dafoe is probably in the film for all on ten minutes in total. Lance Reddick as Hotel Manager Charon offers some good comedic moments but you almost want to see more of him. This is very clearly Reeves’ show and he proves that he can still carry a film exceptionally well.
Where John Wick succeeds over similar films of its genre is that it knows when to mock itself. From a light-hearted exchange between Wick and a policeman through to Ian McShane’s assassin hotel The Continental, this is a film that knows not to take itself too seriously and it’s all the better for it. With his “gun’fu” style of fighting and a few good one liners, this is the film that Reeves deserves as his come back to the big screen and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Helen Murdoch is a freelance writer – Follow me on Twitter