Review: “John Wick”

John Wick

Sometimes a simple story is all you need for a great action movie.

Flying into the weekend box office heavily under the radar, “John Wick” is about a retired assassin (Keanu Reeves) who comes back to his violent lifestyle after a mob boss’ son (Alfie Allen) steals the last bit of his humanity.

After an illness claims the life of his wife, John Wick tries to reclaim his place in the world, but it turns out that things may not be that easy. When unfortunate circumstances bring an old business associate (Michael Nyqvist) back into John’s life, he is forced to pick up his guns once more to exact revenge.

Long gone from his days as a Hollywood star, Reeves is looking for a bit of a comeback. Fortunately it appears that “John Wick” could be his first money-making film since 2008’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” It turns out that finding his way back to a hit only required hooking up with his former stunt double.

Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch have been in the film stuntman business since the early 90’s. Stahelski was even Reeves’ stunt double in films like “Point Break” and “The Matrix.” So what happens when you put two stunt coordinators behind the camera? You get some of the best action sequences in recent memory. Working with Reeves a plethora of stuntmen, they construct some bone-crunching fight scenes that actually obey real world laws. Each time Wick takes on some bad guys in a shootout, he actually reloads his weapons at the appropriate time and it often takes more than one bullet to confirm a kill. While things like that may not mean much for some people, it’s nearly a groundbreaking achievement for the action genre.

Despite some great fight sequences, the film is still written by Derek Kolstad. If you don’t know who that is, his only other film credits are 2 straight-to-DVD action movies starring Dolph Lundgren. As you can expect, a lot of the dialogue is mediocre and there are a few spots in the story that could have been handled much better. That being said, the stylish direction, well-choreographed fights, and the film’s star mostly make up for the script’s shortcomings.

Though most revenge tales are played with a heavy dose of gritty realism, “John Wick” is more of an oddball film that plays up awkward silences and character clichés. The light humor the film carries with it almost relegates the story to some kind of graphic novel. As such, the film stands out as something more unique than your average tale of revenge.

If for nothing else, “John Wick” plays for excellent Friday night entertainment. With a better script it might have been one of the year’s best films. People keep asking if Keanu Reeves is back. Yeah, I’m thinking he’s back.

Grade: B

Happy viewing.

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