Don’t look now but I think Keanu Reeves may have just out Liam’d Liam Neeson
“John Wick” is the story of an ex hitman who is forced to come out of retirement when some local gangsters take everything from him. Keanu Reeves plays the title character, returning to the action genre in what I lovingly refer to as a “messed with the wrong man” movie. You know the kind, where someone does something awful to someone, who then turns out to be an invincible killing machine capable of mowing down anything in the way to him getting ultimate revenge. Oopsie. Well Keanu Reeves plays the machine and lets just say he’s well oiled.
Seriously, Keanu kills in this role. Pun fully intended. It’s great to see Neo back in the Matrix and you can tell he is wonderfully adept at this violent ballet. But here’s the interesting thing, Keanu actually takes a few moments in this to throw down some acting chops as well. Even though the heart of why this movie works is it’s slick, fast paced, and well choreographed action, without those key moments of emotional buy in, I’m not sure I would have come out liking it as much as I did. And I really did like it. Even just as a simple flat out action flick it’s really a well put together piece of fervor and flavor. But even beyond that, these film-makers have really done an incredible job at populating what feels like a dense and pulpy universe with it’s own rules and culture. It just feels like there is much more to explore and that there must be some sort of John Wick-ipedia where we can find even more details on these various characters and settings. All of which is made even more lovely to me by the fact that as far as I can tell it isn’t really based on any pre existing material. Even though it feels like a graphic novel on screen with style and nuance to spare it’s it’s own baby, which speaks well of it’s chances to launch a franchise and explore it even further, which would be just fine by me.
In fact, I honestly welcome it, because one of the only things I didn’t like about the movie is that it almost felt like the world was so dense that we should already have known a lot of what was going on. I don’t think it ever got to the point where I felt confused or lost, only that it feels in moments that a bit of foreknowledge could have expanded the world even more. I also thought the music, though really good, was a bit overbearing in moments distracting from the visuals the more bombastic it became. And of course, I would be remiss not to mention how extremely violent this movie is with our “good guy” delivering more head shots than a well stocked Los Angeles talent agency.
At the end of the day, “John Wick” is exactly the movie it sets out to be. Clever violent action with a revenge tale we easily invest in and a lead we are in awe of. Even if the world feels a little underexplored it’s only because of how much there is that is worth exploring. I think John Wick executes his targets with a B+.