It’s been a while since Keanu Reeves released a film that did some decent business. In all fairness, it’s been a while since we’ve seen Mr. Reeves in anything, full stop. Yes, I know there was last year’s 47 Ronin (which I actually enjoyed despite it’s hounding by the review glitterati), but prior to that you have to go back to 2008’s The Day the Earth Stood Still to find a film that did the rounds in more than a handful of theatres. In the intervening years he’s dabbled in a spot of direction – Man of Tai Chi – and production – Side by Side – as well as a couple of straight to DVD affairs – Henry’s Crime and Generation Um… All-in-all, a fairly inauspicious period of his career. But fear not, oh fans of The One. He is B. A. C. K.
I do like a film that creates a world and drops the audience straight into it without the real need for explanation. Yes, there’s the obligatory exposition – the who, what, when, why and how as Michael Nyqvist‘s character Viggo Tarasov explains to his less-than-intelligent-son Iosef (well-played by Game of Thrones alumnus Alfie Allen) what he’s got himself into; but by this stage we’re invested and have a pretty good idea of who John Wick is. There’s a circle of crime dwelling in Manhattan, bound by an “honour among thieves” doctrine that plays out to great effect during the course of the film. The “cleaners”, the places of refuge, cops that know better than to get mixed up in anything and a unique currency all weave together, embellishing the narrative to entertaining effect.
As for the action? Well, to call John Wick a 101 minute adrenaline rush would be a bit of an understatement. The outstanding fight choreography elevates the visuals to a level few have achieved in film (even The Stath!). To mention this film in the same breath as Gareth Evans‘ The Raid, John Woo‘s The Killer or Reeves’ own The Matrix would not do any of them a disservice. That this is the directorial debut of a former stunt performer, turned second unit director (on the likes of The Expendables 2 and Safe) comes as no surprise. Chad Stahelski (and I urge you to click on the link to see which films he’s been involved with over the years) clearly has an eye for action as well as direction in general. Nice use of aerial views of Manhattan at night always look great, as well as giving us a sense of place; within this throbbing metropolis is an underworld we are now privy to. Albeit one where multiple shots to the body are clearly never enough, so a headshot will be utilised “just to make sure”.
And if the exemplary action/ fight sequences aren’t enough, there’s also the top-notch cast. In addition to Messrs. Reeves, Nyqvist and Allen, we are treated to Willem Dafoe as John Wick’s friend Marcus, Dean Winters as Viggo’s right-hand-man Avi and Adrianne Palicki as “professional” Ms. Perkins. I’d list the entertaining cameos as well, but I’d rather not spoil the fun and let you see them for yourself. Suffice-to-say, all are wonderfully cast and enrich an already outstanding cast. I’d heard good things on the internet about John Wick when it was released in the States last year and hoped it wasn’t just fanboy chatter. Thankfully Keanu Reeves’ latest offering lives up to expectation and, for once, the trailer only shows us a fraction of what to expect. I threatened to send Nick Wild round if you didn’t catch Wild Card at the flix a few days ago. You wouldn’t want me to give John Wick a call. Do yourself a favour and check it out. I can’t see anything coming out in the “Action genre” in the next eight months that will be as good as this. Thank you for reading 🙂