"John Wick" brings back to us Keanu Reeves in a modern ballistic and frenetic action revenge movie. Make no mistake as the trailer is misleading. This one man vs hundreds of noobs vehicle is far more clever and thoughtful than the promotional materials would have you think.
|Adrianne Palicki makes a great second antagonist|
Direction: Chad Stahelski has worked with Keanu before in the Matrix trilogy as his stunt double. What is quite exhilarating here is the fact that he confidently displays skills not only into staging the raging hand to hand combat sequences but into delivering lots of modern neo-noir atmosphere.
Keanu Reeves: It is great to see Keanu back. I am always a fan of his work and I think roles like these suit him best. By far his finet work to date, "John Wick" provides Keanu Reeves an emotional platform to base his character. Unlike most action era films, we can related to John's psychological status as a raging pitbull that since it lost its handler-owner (see his dead wife), it does not know what to do with all that rage. There is particularly a great scene that showcases quite rarely if I might add the acting skills of Reeves when he reads the letter from his recently deceased other half. Perhaps, this role brings back something closer to his unfortunately real life (he lost his wife instantly in a car accident) and he sells it REALLY WELL. Besides this, the role of Wick requires a certain finesse and panache and at the age of 48 (when it was filmed) Reeves shines quite a physical proneness with excellent and convincing Jiujitsu throws and grabs that would make any 20 year old to cry (see also the excellent "Man of Tai Chi"). With the grace and the skill of a martial artist, Reeves throws himself from one set piece to another and carries the entire film on his shoulders despite solid support from everything else. Welcome back Neo. We missed you.
|I want that poster|
Cast: The rest of the cast are good with small yet intriguing roles that have sharp characterization instead of being mono-dimensional filler for the screentime. In particular, Michael Nyqvist is a joy with his deadpan mannerisms and lack of despair who happens to deliver one of the greatest "ohs" in the history of cinema. Ian McShane seems to be having a blast as the owner of the continental (more on that later) and Adrianne Palicki makes quite a solid impression as the lethal assassin-antagonist. William Dafoe, John Leguizamo and Alfie Allen are all solid support to small but key roles that advance the plot.
Story: At the surface, "John Wick" seems to the typical average ageing action vehicle. Total retired badass kills everyone in not necessarily convincing ways for both his age or movie proceedings and lack of creativity - thank you trailer. A closer look though can reveal much much more. "John Wick" has a heart and it is quite surprising that stunt people are behind this production rather than full known talents or even action filmmakers. The enganging touching story of a man losing his wife and getting connected emotionally through her parting gift - a puppy - only to lose it at the hands of Russian gangsters, makes for a compelling take to the much tired revenge thriller. John Wick requires emotional closure and grief and the way the director is handling these scenes is quite remarkable for his first time. With a rich variety of supporting characters and antagonists surrounding our anti-hero, "John Wick" emerges triumphant in the movie scene with a intriguing story.
Mythology: Not only the story does not lose any pace but it manages to establish an interesting mythology around a hidden world in a similar fashion to "Kill Bill" through an applied neo-neoir filter. Hotel like services -continental- for assassins worldwide to check in and out when travelling for "business", "cleaning" services for the reward of shiny golden coins and ambiguous moral codes - you never strike a fellow assassin in neutral ground much like "Highlander" - insert a rather curiosity attracting aspect to the chaotic proceedings and grab the attention of the viewer via clever world building.
|The action is ballistic and Reeves sells its fantastially|
Cinematography: As his most impressive work to date, the cinematography of Jonathan Sela is among this year's best. A wonderful dark blue, grey and black palette embraces the world of John Wick with sharp chromatic antithesis when it comes to nightclubs and indoor settings. The meticulous camera work and various angles only enhance the neo-noir effect in a similar fashion to that one of "Drive" although without the pretentiousness. Each environment oozes with character and the slick costume design simply compliments that further.
Action: The major selling point of "John Wick" are the staggering amounts of action. While starting as a slow burning movie, once the events occur that will spiral Wick out of his norn, the film never drops the bar. Plenty of fights infused with precise gunshots of a top form Keanu reveal a nasty and beautifully stage ballet of violence and blood. Less noisy than the gun-fu of John Woo and more accurate than Neeson's rampage, Wick begins his vengeance as a dog that shows no mercy, an unstoppable juggernaut that will use every breath of his body to annihilate his opponents till he is the only standing through a careful selection of movements, grabs and shots, lots of headshots. The nightclub sequence with the eclectic soundtrack from Le Castle Vania is sure to be remembered for the years to come as the body count is increasing at each heart beat.
Anything bad: Not really, but if I had to nitpick, I would have chosen the slightly downplayed finale and the rather short screentime of McShane and Dafoe. But I guess anything that follows that onslaught could be a bit underwhelming.
"John Wick" will be remembered as a great action revenge movie that never goes over the top with CGI bullshit or over-acting. A good script, a fast pace with great hand to hand combat sequences infused with thrilling cinematography, direction and the best performance in years from Reeves make "John Wick" a modern action masterpiece.
+ great performance from Keanu Reeves
+ fantastic action set pieces
+ that club scene.....
+ brilliant soundtrack
+ solid supporting cast
+ story is quite engaging
+ world building
+ mesmerizing cinematography
- a bit underwhelming finale
- not enough Dafoe and McShane