Movie review: ‘John Wick’ |

Movie review: ‘John Wick’

This photo released by Lionsgate shows Keanu Reeves as John Wick in a scene from the film, "John Wick."
AP | Lionsgate



Directed By David Leitchd, Chad Stahelski

Starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Bridget Moynahan

Rated R, Action, 101 minutes

“John Wick,” released Oct. 24, sorely lacks both credible events and emotion. Those shortcomings might not matter if the film nailed its mix of surreal, cartoon-like live action. The combination seems an ideal mix for actor Keanu Reeves (known for flat emoting) as the titular character. Wick is a one-time assassin brought out of retirement by his desire for revenge.

The film opens with the depiction of Wick recalling an idyllic life with Helen, his angelic wife (played by Bridget Moynahan). A saccharine montage chronicles Helen’s terminal illness followed by her untimely death and the subsequent arrival of an incredibly cute, unbelievably well-behaved beagle puppy — sent by Helen to John as a gift because she knew that he would need something (or someone) to love following her death.

Living in a “Miami Vice”-style home and driving his vintage Mustang with the puppy riding shotgun, grieving Wick clearly has a taste for life’s finer things. It’s his misfortune to purchase gas at the same station frequented by 20-something, punk, thug, Ioser Tarasov (Alfie Allen), who ogles Wick’s Mustang and demands the stranger name his price. Seemingly oblivious to the punk’s threatening attitude, Wick ignores his demand and leaves. That night Wick awakens to find himself the reluctant host of the home-invading thug and buddies, whom proceed to beat Wick into submission, kill his puppy and steal his Mustang.

As evidenced by Reeve’s barely detectable grimace, it’s more than any one man can bear. However, Wick isn’t without resources of his own and, within hours, learns the thief’s identity from local chop shop prince Aurelio (John Leguizamo), whom recognizes John Wick’s vehicle and promptly informs Tarasov’s Russian crime lord papa Viggo (Michael Nyqvist) of his son’s transgression.

The events that follow clarify that, until five years earlier when he married Helen, Wick was employed by none other than Viggo Tarasov as an assassin. Incredibly, prior to stealing Wick’s car, the son has no idea of Wick’s family relationship. Known as an assassin’s assassin, Wick will settle for nothing less than the moron’s death — and none disagree that the kid is a moron.

The film poses the tantalizing prospect of a hit man’s underworld supported by a luxury hotel billed as no-kill zone and run by Charon (Lance Reddick), a perceptive, personable manager who is pleased to welcome Wick back.

While reestablishing his contacts Wick returns to a private club for killers run by Winston (Ian McShane). He needs Winston to arrange clandestine meetings, clean weapons and, when necessary, for body-disposal services.

Certain questions come to mind, such as why an assassin would choose to reveal his identity and forsake the element of surprise by showing up at the killers’ club or staying at a hotel known to cater to assassins.

Absolute discretion is required from the disposal crew of three arriving at Wick’s home to deal with a dozen dead killers. Viewers are asked to presume that this motley crew of aging, bearded, grossly obese janitors is capable of restoring Wick’s home to its former pristine state within a few short hours.

It wouldn’t matter that the film manages to make the appealing idea of an assassin’s private universe wholly unconvincing, had the movie aimed for sarcasm or been sufficiently witty.

Instead, it takes itself rather seriously, mining only the scantiest amusement from its comic book-style plot and action. It’s sole redeeming feature is a lack of pretense regarding the gratuitous, bloody violence resulting from its highly-choreographed fight scenes. Reeves, now 50, qualifies as an aging action star, though he neither looks his age nor is hindered by it. He is, however, hindered by any script that doesn’t capitalize on his naturally bewildered presence, which far outweighs Reeve’s acting skills.

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