November 5, 2014
The career of Keanu Reeves seemed to have taken a nosedive after the huge success of the "Matrix" films. We would be hard put to name even one film after that. Last year, he directed a martial arts film called "Man of Tai Chi", where he played antagonist to a less than charismatic leading man. That did not fly too high, except perhaps for some serious action fans. Reeves began this year auspiciously with "47 Ronin". And now, the buzz for this action film "John Wick" was simply too high to ignore.
John Wick is a notoriously ruthless hit man, now retired. He is still very depressed about his wife's death from cancer. One day, a group of crazy thugs break into John's house, rough him up and steal his Mustang. However, they made the mistake of destroying his wife's one most precious posthumous gift to him. That final straw sends John on a deadly revenge rampage against this gang, the very gang for which he served years ago.
For their first directorial effort, David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, who were the stunt coordinators in the iconic "Matrix" films, make a spectacular debut. Their action sequences were fast-clipped, very exciting and relentlessly brutal. They knew how to make the stunts look good. Be it gunplay, knife-play or martial arts, Keanu Reeves made a perfect action hero. That breathtaking sequence alone when Reeves fought, stabbed and shot his way through a nightclub is already worth the price of admission.
Of course, a lot of this film's success came because of Reeves' excellence in the frenetic action scenes. However, he also connected in those scenes which required him to do some dramatic acting. In this film, we will remember fondly his devotion to his wife, which Reeves was able to project very well without words. He was sincerely moving in those touching scenes which will definitely register especially with his loyal female fans.
The main antagonist mob boss Viggo Tarasov (yes, Russian again) is played by Michael Nyqvist, the actor who played the lead role of Mikael Blomkvist in the original Swedish "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" films. "Game of Thrones" fans will relish the rascally presence of Alfie Allen in another crazed role as Viggo's idiotic son Iosef, which was reminiscent of his Theon Greyjoy character in GoT.
I finally see Adrianne Palicki closer in action as skilled assassin Ms. Perkins. I first heard about this actress when she was cast as Wonder Woman in a failed TV pilot in 2011 (which I did not get to see). She is quite good here in her action scenes. Her final scene is memorably haunting. David Patrick Kelly's clean-up guy character Charlie is an interesting humorous touch. Willem Dafoe and Dean Winters are their old reliable selves here.
The simplistic plot may be ripped off the plots of many other old-fashioned B-action films which still get produced to this day. But the hype for this film is justified. This is a very good action film for those who like non-stop gunfire, bloodshed, fights with an ever-escalating body count. Hardcore fans of action will enjoy the adrenaline rush. More significantly, hopefully this film will mark Keanu Reeves return into the Hollywood A-list where he rightfully belongs. 7/10.