“It’s not what you did son, that angers me so…it’s who you did it to…”
We’ve seen this story – or at least a version of it – on the big screen many, many times before. After the tragic loss of his wife, a legendary hitman, now retired, gets back into the game to seek revenge on the scumbag gangsters who raid his house and kill the only thing he holds dear to him anymore, the puppy that his dead wife left him. John Wick is one of the best in the world at what he does and while Keanu Reeves certainly isn’t, he still manages to bring the character to life with an impressive slick menace and gritty determination to finish the job. Keanu often gets a bad rep, however his “wooden” performance actually adds to the character’s demeanour. This is the kind of movie that Keanu was born to make and boy does it deliver.
Guys, this one really caught me by surprise. Yes, the action always commands itself front and centre but it’s the way the action unfolds and how it’s shot that made me sit up and take notice. This is a genre film that harks back to good old action-revenge flicks of the 90’s but it’s drowned in Eastern influences. As with The Matrix, it borrows a lot from Asian cinema, while maintaining a very raw, realistic and current approach. It doesn’t allow itself to border on parody either which sometimes happens when you have high-paced action sequences. The fact that it does this while maintaining some subtle humour is a testament to first time director Chad Staheski. There were hints of The Raid in there too and if anyone reading this has seen that then you know that’s a plus.
While the fight scenes are great – slightly better than your average action movie – it was the brooding atmosphere, ominous tone and beautiful cinematography that really captured my eye. It’s very stylish, dare I say it…arty? It feels like a gritty adaptation of a graphic novel. I especially enjoyed the scenes filmed in the club and in the assassins hotel (yes that’s actually a thing in the movie). Relentlessly polished and joyously entertaining.
The story may be a simple one, the journey may be a tad generic (there’s not much in the way of twists and turns) but it’s delightfully fun to watch and even though John has a violent and questionable past (he is a murderer after all) the film does it’s job in making us root for him from the start. The rest of the cast is made up by Willem Dafoe, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki and Ian McShane, all of whom are fine but only Michael Nyqvist as the badass Russian mafia boss really leaves any impression.
Reeves is a fucking action hero here. He might not have the intimidating screen presence of Schwarzenegger or Van Damme. Neither does he ooze the wit of Bruce Willis or Mel Gibson. He’s something entirely different and more dangerous. Decked out in his tailor-made, super cool black suit, he’s the calm before the storm and when the storm hits…everything falls.
Gavin logan – Follow me on Twitter