John Wick Review
Keanu Reeves is kind of perfect as an action guy. He kills really well, he blows stuff up really well and his dialogue is laughably passable. He's been trudging along in the action genre nearly all of his career. He's had some bad movies and actually some good ones too. I was ready to sit down to "John Wick" tonight, ready to pass it on as brainless, harmless entertainment.
For most of its running time, that is exactly what "John Wick" is, brainless, harmless entertainment. It is a movie that puts Keanu Reeves front and center in the action genre, and does pretty good the whole way through. Fans of Neo and "The Matrix" can rest assured that Reeves does good and carries the movie. While it isn't a straight arrow hit, its an interesting movie. If you are expecting a revenge action picture, that is exactly what your going to get. No tricks and no B.S. included.
We meet John Wick as he kisses his wife (Bridget Moynahan) on the head after her battle with cancer is lost. Wick is an ex-hitman who left the life in order to have a normal life with his wife. Wick's wife knows how much he will grieve, and so she sets up a special gift for him, so that he can love something while he is coping with her death. One day, three Russian punks try to buy Wick's muscle car off of him, which leads to Wick accidently insulting one of them. This Russian (played by Alfie Allen of "Game of Thrones") breaks into Wick's home and takes away his wife's gift.
I am trying to keep this particular point under wraps, because I don't want to spoil anything and honestly, it just really hit me on the heart in a way I wasn't expecting this movie to do. As this painfully brutal sequence played out, I was a tear-soaked mess. In revenge movies, the set-up is make or break, and we have already seen countless movies where somebody rises to challenge after loosing a loved one. This set-up is terrifically sad, and I really felt for Wick. Depending on what type of person you are, this sequence may not have a big effect on you, but I know several people that will have a powerful reaction to this. Not only are these Russians punks, but Allen's character is the son of Viggo (Michel Nyqvist) a powerful Russian gangster who excused Wick from service, and referred to Wick as "Boba Yaga." Suddenly the Russian underworld is fearful of what will happen to Viggo's son, and it juicy set-up.
There is a terrific ensemble of actors who show up in this, including Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Adrian Palicki, all of whom do masterful work. Both Dafoe and McShane have played these types of characters before, but they bounce off of Reeves easily and in a humanistic way. It was cool to see Palicki play a full-fledged bad person for change, as her character is hired to bring down Wick. Keanu Reeves is...Keanu Reeves. He kills people well and he blows stuff up well. His one-liners may sound silly, but he makes them land. Reeves does as well as Reeves could possibly do and he carries this film with genuine ease. I was also impressed by the work by Nyqvist and Allen as well.
"John Wick" won't change the status quo of action films or revenge thrillers. It won't force you to view Keanu Reeves in a different light either, but its hell of a ride. It is also a much better ride than I planned on having tonight. If a short and to-the-point, gritty action picture is what you desire, one that conjures a wicked body count, then "John Wick" is for you. It is a standard revenge movie, but it has enough flair to make itself count.
FINAL GRADE: B