Thursday, November 6, 2014

John Wick

Directed by: David Leitch and Chad Stahleski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, Alfie Allen, Bridget Moynahan, Adrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Dean Winters, Lance Reddick

Review by James Colt Harrison

There are action pictures and then there are more than action pictures. The new Keanu Reeves starred John Wick is in a category all by itself. Fans of mayhem and mindless killing will eat up this film. Ordinary audiences will simply have their own heads spinning at the dead body count by the end of the picture. Actually, you don’t have to wait until the end of the picture because the shots ring out soon after the opening credits and continue relentlessly in scene after scene.

There isn’t much of a plot or deep philosophical ravings, nor does there need be in a film that is probably one of the best action films of the year. Screenwriter Derek Kolstad’s plot is so thin and simple that he probably wrote it on the back of a cocktail napkin.

There needs to be a motive ! There is one, but it seems rather flimsy for the intense revenge it sparks in stone-faced Reeves’ sculptured visage. Reeves is stoic and unemotional. But in this case, it works and he is fierce in his motives even if he never moves a facial muscle. It seems the loser son Iosef (Alfie Allen) of the Russian Mafia leader (Michael Nyqvist) has stolen Wick’s 1969 Mustang and killed the dog Wick’s dying wife (Bridget Moynahan) gave him. That did it! Wick is a retired hit man for the very same Mafia leader, and the robbery has awakened his murderous instincts to seek revenge on the idiot son.

With two guns blazing that spew bullets with military drone accuracy, Wick wipes out an entire nightclub of thugs in his quest to find the son (Iosef). Unfortunately he disrupts the lovely singing tones of singer Sophia Urista, the Candy Shop Boys, and violinist Scott Tixier, which simply ruined their musical set. But the ruthless Keanu’s John Wick wrecked the entire club, shot and killed about 150 bad guys, and missed the rotten son! The sequence is one of the best ever seen in an action film. Credit probably goes to Chad Stahelski, who was Reeves’ former stunt double.

The supporting cast is superb. Stealing the film is Michael Nyqvist, who plays Russian boss Tarasov. He’s sleazily charming, but you know he isn’t fooling when he gives orders to wipe out Wick. Nyqvist was born in Sweden. He is best known for his Swedish film trilogy The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, all in 2009. Along the way, he has picked up three Best Actor Awards in Europe. He is best known to American audiences for his part in Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible---Ghost Protocol in 2011.

Making a short, but significant appearance in the film is John Leguizamo. Usually given comedic parts in films, here he plays a shady auto body repair shop owner. He does under-handed car repairs for the Russian thugs, but he’s a no-nonsense person and doesn’t take any harassing from the bad boys.

Willem Dafoe (Marcus), who always does a good job no matter how small the part, is being paid $2 million to assassinate Wick, even though they are friends. Money talks and all love is lost in the face of receiving a big bank account. Dafoe is charming and menacing, but it’s a shame his part wasn’t larger. He would’ve had time to wipe out more people!

Reeves is obviously the star as he gets mired in such ridiculous and implausible situations that it is almost laughable. But that helps the brisk pace of the film and it piles action after action on top of each other, keeping the plot(?) moving at breakneck speed. You’re in for one monumental thrill when you see this breathtaking film. It’s his most exciting movie since that bus movie with Sandra Bullock.

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