“John Wick” Runs a Vicious Gauntlet (Film Review)

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Taking a shot as a hitman  in his latest film John Wick, Keanu Reeves delivers his character with authority in this explosive crime drama.  The film turns out to be an ideal fit for the star and his former stunt double turned director as they move to one perfectly choreographed fight scene after another. It’s a fast action gauntlet that lasts nearly the whole 96 minutes.

Retired killer for the mob John Wick (Reeves), also known in gang circles as the Boogeyman, has just lost his wife after a long illness.  A day following the funeral he receives a beagle puppy delivered by a service to his home.  It’s from his deceased wife who sent the pet to give him comfort after her death. The next morning he pulls into a local gas station where he’s approached by a young Russian gangster Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) who offers to buy his classic Mustang.  Refusing, Wick starts to leave, but Iosef tells him he really wants his car.  Ignoring him he drives off and returns to his home.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) gets a puppy named Daisy

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) gets a puppy named Daisy

That night Iosef invades Wick’s house with several of his henchmen killing the dog in the process. Wick kills most all the home invaders, but Iosef escapes with the Mustang.  Soon after Wick gets a call from Russian mob boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) who tries to placate him with money for his son’s behavior.  Wick refuses the powerful man wanting his son’s life for the death of his dog.  When Viggo rebuffs Wick a war begins with the Boogeyman going on a rampage far greater than the mob boss could ever imagine.

Relentless Wick is unstoppable

Relentless Wick is unstoppable

Former Stuntman Chad Stahelski who doubled for Reeves in The Matrix puts on his directorial hat creating this awesome nonstop crime action film.  Knowing just how the stunt process works to make a film look realistic and action packed, Stahelski winds his way through the script choreographing shootouts, fist fights and martial arts battles.  Keanu Reeves does most all of his stunts in the film showing that he’s still on top of his game.

Reeves gives his all as Wick, overshadowing the ferocity of his fight acting ability in any previous film.  He mirrors many of the mixed martial arts actors who are a large part of the cast that go up against John Wick.  Most adrenaline boost seekers will get a charge out of Reeves’s vengeance with realistic pin point round house kicks, swift damaging punches and brutal karate attacks.  He’s swift and lethal with a handgun, shotgun and knife.  And, something I’ve not seen much of in movies, he reloads his weapon on the run after maxim delivered gunshots.

Wick is on the attack in this scene directed by Chad Stahelski

Wick is on the attack in this scene directed by Chad Stahelski

Incredible cinematography with seamless panning from one fight to the next, the camera shoot during many sequences throughout the film is remarkably continual. Moving in for close-ups of the action and then pulling back to show the whole picture during long sequences, the ‘one-shots’ are very cool. One battle takes a lot of screen time, but not once could I distinguish the same character being killed. In all there’s 84 kills by the lead character. The movie John Wick must surely now hold the record for the number of kills by one character in a crime film. The most creative kill comes midway through the film…um, sorry can’t give that away, but it’s a wicked hit.

Adrianne Palicki plays Perkins one of Wick's evil adversaries

Adrianne Palicki plays Perkins one of Wick’s evil adversaries

John Wick has been rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use. The only downside I could see is the many similar films that have come out over the years.  If you have watched the relentless kill films such as The Raid: Redemption (all time most crime carnage), Taken (plus several other films with Liam Neeson) , Contraband (many others starring Mark Wahlberg), 2 Guns (most of Denzel Washington’s movies), Fast 5 (a lot of movies with Vin Diesel), Jack Reacher (most anything with Tom Cruise), Transporter (anything that has Jason Statham), etc you may get a sense of deja vu, but go see this one anyway, it’s worth the price of admission.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An exceptional action thriller. (B)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Omer Barnea, Toby Leonard Moore, Daniel Bernhardt, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Bridget Regan, Lance Reddick, Munro M. Bonnell, Clarke Peters.
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Genre: Crime, Action, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
Running Time: 1 hr 36 min
Release Date: October 24, 2014
Distributed by: Summit Entertainment

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