Keanu Reeves is a hit or miss kind of actor for me. I can think of a handful of movies he was in that I like… the original Matrix, The Replacements, Point Break… the list is not long. He's not an actor that will get me to go see a movie because he's in it.
This past weekend I got to sit down and watch John Wick. I had seen the trailers when it was in theaters and for the first time in a long time there was a Keanu Reeves movie I wanted to see… a straight forward revenge/action movie. Having finally gotten to see it I have to say the movie does not disappoint.
The plot is simple, John Wick is an ex-hit man who fell in love and left the business after completing an impossible assignment for his boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist). His wife dies from an undisclosed ailment and she leaves him a puppy to love as he mourns her passing. He bonds with the dog while out driving his only other true love, a classic Mustang. When a Russian gangster named Iosef (Alfie Allen), son of Wick's old boss, sees the car, he wants it. But Wick refuses to sell. So the gangster and his two buddies break into Wick's house, surprise him, beat the crap out of him, kill his dog and take his car.
This all takes place in the first few minutes of the film along with the reaction to the car being stolen. In a few comments from the chop shop guy Aurielo (John Leguizamo) and Viggo we get a really good idea of just how kick-ass Wick is without him having done anything yet.
Wick was devastated by his wife's death and frustrated by the fact he could do nothing about it. What can a man of action do against a disease? But when Iosef killed the puppy, he became the face of all the darkness in Wick's world. Viggo explains that they had a nickname for Wick, they called him Baba Yaga or the Boogeyman… except Wick was the person you would send to kill the Boogeyman. And that is what Iosef unleashed upon himself.
The universe that is built in this film is one of respect among killers and organization. Certain rules you don't break and safe havens that must be honored. Its a world the could have many stories told from it but I don't think they would be as pure and visceral as this one.
Reeves portrays Wick as the quiet, loner with a singular purpose for most of the film and that type of role is right in the actors wheelhouse. But the surprising moment is when Wick opens up for a short moment and verbalizes that pain inside of him and just what Iosef took from him. This moment is very well acted and brings the character's true motivation to light.
The film is well written and extremely well directed. The action scenes are brutal, fast paced and exciting. The supporting cast that includes Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane and Adrianne Palicki are all well rounded characters that we get a good feel for in a short amount of screen time.
When I sit down to watch a movie, I judge it based on what the movie is supposed to be. This is supposed to be a fast-paced revenge/action movie and in that confines it is very well done. I would expect to see more and high profile films from directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. I also wouldn't be surprised to see another John Wick film… but it might be hard to come up with plot line that would turn a cold-blooded killer into a hero for a second time.
John Wick is available now on Blu-ray / DVD and VoD.