Dir: Chad Stahelski Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, Alfie Allen, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, and Bridget Moynahan
101 Minutes Rated R
By Monte Yazzie (www.thecodafilms.com)
Be careful whom you cross. That’s the introducing theme to the most recent entry into the revenge genre with director Chad Stahelski’s film “John Wick”. Seemingly influenced by the films of John Woo, Stahelski pulls no punches with the breakneck, bullet ridden action sequences. Writer Derek Kolstad offers some of the best material in years for star Keanu Reeves, who seems tailored for walking into a room full of armed tough guys with a calm, “no problem” personality. “John Wick” is a worthy entry into the revenge genre, it’s not heavy on pointless plot or twisting narrative transitions but instead relishes in the mayhem that moves it from scene to scene.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a former hitman for hire. Retired, John lives a normal life with his wife (Bridget Moynahan) until she suddenly dies. John is alone but an unexpected gift from his wife before she died arrives at his doorstep, a puppy. John is given an opportunity to continue his normal existence, but a group of young gangsters come and take the last piece of hope in his life. John returns for vengeance to the life he barely escaped, guns in hand.
There is nothing complicated about “John Wick”. The simplistic, narrative design gives you all the major plot points in the first 15 minutes. From then on the film trudges into familiar revenge film territory. John in a nice suit armed with weapons and bad guys with heavy accents lining up for John to unceremoniously knock down. However, writer Derek Kolstad adds some unique features to accommodate the distinctive formula. John isn’t the only hitman in New York City, there is an assassin society that keeps their secret and offers safe housing, also added are a cleanup crew that takes care of the messy aftermath, and special currency that pays for services. The narrative nicely composes the settings and atmosphere of the film, making the world seem like something out of a comic book.
Keanu Reeves is a perfect fit for this role. A mix of calm and collected while also displaying the personality of an ordinary and regular guy, Reeves has been playing this character for some time and he does it well when the material is suited for it. There are some great cameos from the always-reliable Willem Dafoe as a fellow hitman and Ian McShane as the manager of the assassin safe house.
“John Wick” functions best when it embraces its B-movie ambitions. Keanu Reeves surprisingly holds the film together with his performance. Though in moments the film’s no nonsense approach has a tendency to slow the pacing significantly and scenes have an inclination to feel more like rehashes in new settings. After being asked a recurring question throughout the film John Wick exclaims, “yeah, I’m thinking I’m back”. That line of dialogue is a telling statement for a film that is bound to find a sequel, which I would more than likely to sit through again.
Monte’s Rating / 3.50 out of 5.00