James Halcomb reviews ‘John Wick’ and finds a serious portrait of a man battling his own demons.
There is a moment where Keanu Reeves’ title character, John Wick, sits at the edge of his bed, hands by his side and takes a quiet, meditative breath. This is last moment in the film until its conclusion that I remember taking a breath as well. The film, “John Wick” is an actioner of the highest order, more in line with a late 1980’s John Woo/Chow Yun Fat collaboration than any of the overblown messes that Hollywood has been pouring out for the last decade or so.
Keanu plays a former mobster enforcer, nicknamed the Boogeyman, who has retired from the murder for hire business, until a series of bad coincidences, precipitated by the funeral for his wife, brings him out of retirement and back for vengeance against those who have wronged him, in particular Iosef Tarasov, played by Alfie Allen, the son of a Russian mob boss.
The cast is stellar, Ian McShane as the owner of the Continental hotel, a seemingly “holy ground” in this bizarre world, where gold coins are used as currency. Adrianne Palicki is continuing on pace to becoming the go-to female action star and is brutal here as the mysterious Ms. Perkins; Willem Defoe has a small, but pivotal role as Marcus, a veteran hit man; and a friend and mentor to John. Mikael Nyqvist is surprisingly effective as Viggo Tarasov, the head of the Russian crime syndicate; at first appearing as a one-note James Bond-style villain, as the film progresses, he becomes a better-rounded and at times sympathetic figure.
Co-directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, make a violent ballet and it is impressive to see Keanu still sporting some of his “Matrix” moves. The violence is bloody, relentless and impressive. The body count is staggering and the humor is of the blackest sort.
The film also gives us a serious portrait of a man battling for two reasons: as a way of dealing with the grief of his lost love and simple, mindless revenge. Wick is a man looking for a fight, a reason to lose control and the Russian mobsters have given him a reason to cut loose.
Keanu is in the process of slowly building a stellar career resurgence. He shows here that he still has the chops to be an action movie machine and is also just a darn good actor. “John Wick” is a fantastic fairy tale of violence and mayhem; one that should not be missed. I give the film 3.5 stars.