Starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki
Directed by Chad Stahleski
Cert: 16, Running Time 101 minutes
Release Date (Ireland) : April 10th 2015
There’s a scene in John Wick in which Keanu Reeves’ character, a retired assassin is asked if he’s back.
“People keep asking if I’m back and I haven’t really had an answer – but yeah – I’m thinking I’m back.”
Keanu Reeves comeback was declared when John Wick performed over the odds at the US box office last October. A slick revenge thriller, it certainly put Reeves back in the spotlight after last year’s disappointing opening of the CGI heavy 47 Ronin.
John Wick tells the tale of a former hitman who has turned his back on his trade to settle down with the woman he loves. But when she dies due to illness he is left alone until a package arrives at his front door in the shape of a puppy his wife had organised for him before her death. The dog (undeniably cute) gives solace to John in his loneliness and grief and just when we think he may be okay after all, car thieves, led by Russian mobster Iosef (played by Games of Thrones Alfie Allen) break into his house. Catching him off guard they beat him up, kill his dear puppy and leave with his 1969 Boss Mustang car.
When word spreads in the criminal underworld that Iosef stole John Wick’s car a wave of fear spreads and those in the higher echelons know that he’ll be coming for him. Iosef, uneducated in the mythical status of Wick’s assassin, is full of bravado as his father, mob boss Viggo (played by Michael Nyqvist) explains that John is the man you send to kill the bogeyman and he never misses.
As John hunts Iosef and his henchmen through a heavily stylised New York City, Viggo places a huge bounty on John’s head in an effort to save his son.
The double act of director Chad Stahleski and producer David Leitch, two former stunt men who run a very successful stunt choreography outfit in Hollywood, (Stahleski doubled for Reeves on the Matrix Trilogy) have a terrific eye for action and the set pieces, particularly the one in the Red Circle nightclub is reminiscent of the lobby scene in The Matrix for its action and fresh styling. Fast-paced and punchy the camera never loses focus of its star and rather than jumping around a scene it allows the actors to do their thing and show off which they do very well.
Reeves is on top form, slim and well trained in close combat using jujitsu moves to take down and crush his enemies. He’s as good with a gun as he is with his hands and is a killing machine, dispatching his enemies with ease. As he showed with his directorial debut, the flawed but nonetheless entertaining Man of Tai Chi, Reeves likes his martial arts and here he brings a cool effortless physicality to John Wick’s hitman.
Action films, while ten-a-penny are rarely as enjoyable or entertaining as this and with strong support from a cast including Willem Dafoe, as a fellow hitman, Ian McShane as the owner of The Continental, a hotel that offers a neutral safe haven in criminal circles – it succeeds in pushing the genre and taking risks that pay off.
With a pumping soundtrack, the film is visually stunning, and while set up on a rather cheesy premise, it’s utterly believable.
Reeves does 90% of his own stunts including some very fast and furious driving so there’s plenty here to keep action fans happy and at 101 minutes it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.