Keanu Reeves emphatically joins the surging, stylish, and gritty action/revenge genre.
There is a 2010 Korean film called The Man from Nowhere and it features a fairly quiet – but emotional when necessary – individual who goes on an extremely efficient rampage of destruction. In that film’s case, it was to rescue a little girl, a girl that was the only connection to the civilian world for the main character.
In John Wick, Keanu Reeves goes on a murdering spree to deal with the angst of losing his wife (Bridget Moynahan) and the puppy she posthumously sends him as a gift after her death from cancer (I think – it was some disease). That’s an important distinction to make, because a lot of people have been scratching their heads over the oversimplified notion of somebody shooting up a bunch of people (bad people, but still) just because they killed his dog.
But you have to think in John Wick’s shoes. He’s a premiere assassin – one of those characters that gets described as “the best in the world” – and is so good his nickname is Boogeyman. For years and years he’s only known the life of guns and destruction. Eventually, he wants a normal life and gets married.
She dies, then after her funeral he is delivered a puppy, presumably under orders from her will. He is surprised, emotional, and undoubtedly believes the puppy to be a kind of extension of his wife’s existence.
Then a bunch of pricks break into his house, beat the shit out of him, kill the puppy (a ridiculously cute one too), and steal his awesome car. I mean, what do you expect a former killing machine to do?
He deals with it the only way he knows how. He comes back.
Going back to The Man from Nowhere, I brought that movie up not only because the main character is similar to John Wick, both in terms of their aesthetics and personalities, but because of the fight scenes. Oh my goodness, John Wick features some of the most entertaining scenes of carnage I’ve witnessed in quite some time.
In a world where fights are increasingly involving superheroes and entire cities getting annihilated (looking at you, Man of Steel), it’s always a good feeling to get back to the basics and see some good, old-fashioned, choreographed stunts.
If you’ve ever seen The Man from Nowhere, you’ll remember the knife massacre in the last third of the movie. It is, without question, one of the most brutal displays of violence you will ever see. It is also one of the most efficient.
John Wick is just as efficient, only his primary weapon of choice is a gun. He pops people like nobody’s business, often employing variations of the Mozambique Drill. As it happens, the movie’s directors, David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, are both from the underrated and underappreciated world of stunt work.
The film is highly and expertly choreographed. Combine that with the film’s relatively brief running time (101 minutes) and it all flies by before you can say, “Whoa.”
Willem Dafoe and Adrianne Palicki add to the fun with their own killer roles. Palicki in particular has a great fight scene with Keanu, and the directors made sure to justify her taking him head-on, given John Wick’s legendary status even among his fellow assassin brethren.
This film is entertaining as hell, skillfully utilizing the barest of character and plot developments. It knows what it is and stays within its role, which is something many other projects often have difficult with (like the “character building” in the second season of The Walking Dead).
While I hesitate to demand a sequel, especially after the spectacle with Taken 2 (and presumably Taken 3), I can honestly say I wouldn’t mind just sixty more minutes of John Wick plowing through bad dudes in some more nightclubs and churches.
Also, kudos to Reeves for delivering in this film. He is somebody with an inexplicable set of public opinions directed towards him; you know, the whole “his acting is stiffer than cardboard” and “he seems like a genuinely nice and perpetually lonely guy” or whatever.
But really, he brings it. Feel the heat in John Wick.
Let’s hope he comes back in the future.