John Wick is the new Keanu Reeves action flick about a man who doesn’t have a concept of proportional response. In this gripping tale, someone steals John Wick’s car and kills his puppy so he does what anyone would naturally do: go on a revenge killing spree, murdering about 80 people on a bloody rampage. If you can say anything about this movie it’s that it’s completely apologetically what it is… an unironic pure action flick that’s almost a throwback to classic 80s action flicks… only without the knowing wink a lot of these types of movies have these days.
Keanu Reeves is fine in his roll here as an impossibly good killer. John Wick is a man who doesn’t believe in the double-tap since nearly every shot is a head shot. He’s so bad ass, the mafia boss who finds out he’s out for revenge is terrified at the first hint of his name, he’s so bad-ass the local beat cops are not only on a first name basis with him, they don’t want to have anything to do with him (even with the corpses of his victims in plain sight). He’s so bad ass, in fact, it kind of robs the movie of any real suspense… he’s nigh-invulnerable except when the plot decides he isn’t (it doesn’t feel believable this Terminator-level killer would get hurt at all and, even when he does, the movie doesn’t feel like it’s really all that meaningful since, come on, he’s the Action Hero).
Keanu is surrounded by a lot of name brand and “hey that guy” actors like Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Dean Winter (the All-State “Mayhem” guy in those commercials), Adrianne Palicki (impossibly hot and cool), Alfiie Allen (Ahh! Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones), and others.
One really interesting thing about this flick is that it’s really good, of all things, at world-building. This is a world with a hit-man hotel that doesn’t need explaining… you just get the rules through basic dialog in ways that doesn’t feel like an exposition dump. You get that this is a small world of hit-men and it comes with a certain level of familiarity and professional courtesy. It’s very well done and indicative of a surprisingly well written script for a movie that’s about taking bloody revenge over a murdered puppy.
The action scenes are really skillfully and smartly done. I can’t fault a second of it as far as execution goes – Keanu appears to be doing a lot of his own stunts, there’s no slow-mo, and minimal shaky-cam. It’s exceedingly well choreographed with a lot of rapid but measured moves from Reeves that shows his character is a man with an economy of movement. The only problem is a very personal ones… as I noted, John Wick is so over-the-top awesome at what he does, it robs the movie (for me) of any suspense and leaves it just merely great looking and glossy. I can’t get into an action flick like this like I used to. However, I fully suspect anyone who has read this far into this stupid long review will probably have no problem with it.
So, yeah, this is a surprisingly adept action flick that I can recommend for what it is… and if you are the kind of person who would like a non-nonsense, smart but silly action flick that dispenses with ridiculous things like reasonable motivations (seriously, it’s all about his dog), then it’s definitely worth seeing.
As an aside, it’s getting shockingly good reviews from professional critics -in the high 80s on Rotten Tomatoes.