Film review: Keanu reloads as a tough guy in John Wick

Keanu Reeves loosens up in John Wick by playing his age and performing many of his own stunts. Publicity photo. Keanu Reeves loosens up in John Wick by playing his age and performing many of his own stunts. Publicity photo.

It’s about time to revisit the way we talk about Keanu Reeves. For over two decades, his name has been synonymous with stiff acting and dim surfer dudes. But between his stint as a stunningly capable interviewer of film greats in 2012’s Side by Side and his thoroughly enjoyable directorial debut with last year’s Man of Tai Chi, it’s clear that what he lacks in technical acting chops he more than makes up for in self-awareness, intelligence, hard work, and good taste.

Reeves’ latest, John Wick, is the 50-year-old (yes, he’s 50) action star’s entrance into the world of pissed off old guy action flicks and it only serves to bolster the actor’s career revival. Reeves stars in the title role as a recently widowed, long retired assassin for a criminal enterprise he left behind to pursue a life of normality. In the final stages of her sickness, Wick’s wife arranged for him to receive a puppy, to love in her absence. Within days, while taking his car and furry friend for a ride, Wick is confronted by privileged Russian mob kids headed by Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen of “Game of Thrones”). Later that night, the gang invades Wick’s home, viciously attacks him, kills the dog, and steals his prized Mustang. This insult to injury turns Wick’s grief into rage, as he dives headfirst into the criminal world he left behind to kick some spoiled ass.

With a beat and style all its own, John Wick is much like Reeves himself: stylish, cool, and fun enough that you will readily forgive most of what keeps it from being conventionally good. Most of the tricks in John Wick’s arsenal—who’s-who cameos of cinemas greatest badasses, handcuffed escapes, clever allusions to the extent of Wick’s famed abilities—are used in the first 45 minutes only to repeat themselves. Doesn’t matter, because everything is such a blast that you won’t mind it the second time. The plot—such as it is—doesn’t build toward its conclusion so much as just ends after there’s no one left to kill. Doesn’t matter, because in a genre exercise this tight, any moral or moment of dramatic sincerity would have been entirely artificial.

Though on the surface, John Wick shares a great deal with the recent spate of movies about retired killers who just want to be left alone (The Equalizer, The Drop, any Liam Neeson movie of late), two key things separate it from the pack. First is the direction by professional stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, both of whom have a history with Reeves going back to the Matrix films. The movie looks amazing, from its terrific use of color to its impeccably choreographed fight scenes that lack the spatial confusion of similar shootout-heavy films. The second is Reeves himself, who has become known for performing many of his own stunts, fighting, and even driving. Whereas Denzel Washington or Liam Neeson are dramatically believable in their respective roles, few action heroes his age throw their entire body into every punch, kick, roll, and stab quite as much as Reeves.

John Wick is not perfect. The plot detours become a bit redundant and sometimes drag the momentum to a halt, and the character of Wick himself is either uneven or required more of a performance from Reeves. But as a technical display of physicality and style by some of the best stuntmen in the business, here’s hoping it launches an American subgenre of Hong Kong-style action films in a way John Woo never could.

Playing this week

23 Blast
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Annabelle
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Addicted
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Best of Me
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Book of Life
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Boxtrolls
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Dear White People
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Dracula Untold
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Fury
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Gone Girl
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Happy New Year
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

The Judge
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Kill the Messenger
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

The Maze Runner
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Men, Women and Children
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Ouija
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Pride
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

The Skeleton Twins
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

St. Vincent
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

This Is Where I Leave You
Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6

Movie houses

Regal Downtown Mall Cinema 6
979-7669

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
244-3213

Keanu Reeves loosens up in John Wick by playing his age and performing many of his own stunts.

Posted In:     Arts

Previous Post

Perspective shift: Denise Stewart plans for change in The Sugar

Next Post

ARTS Pick: Frankenstein



Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to editor@c-ville.com.

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of