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Review - John Wick

By midlandsmovies, Apr 7 2015 08:21PM

John Wick (2015) Dir. Chad Stahelski & David Leitch

Keanu Reeves is back in action with his new film playing a retired hit man named John Wick who loses his wife to illness but receives a posthumous puppy from her to keep her memory alive. Later, a group of young Russians lead by Isosef break into his home killing the dog and stealing his car, after a perceived slight during a previous encounter at a local gas station. This act unleashes the rage inside Wick who digs up (literally) his old cache of guns for a large slice of revenge pie. This old-as-the-hills set up is filmed in a great minimalist style with stunning visual cinematography that is usually reserved for films way outside of the action genre.

However, Wick’s reputation precedes him as word of his return filters back to Viggo Tarasov, the father of Iosef, who fears the retribution that’s been unleashed will prove problematic to his crime syndicate. Played to perfection by Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Michael Nyqvist, Tarasov was once Wick’s employer too and is well aware of his skills. So it’s not long before Wick’s attention begins to focus on finding and reprimanding (i.e. killing in the face) the gang who broke in. Splashes of blood turn to rivers of the stuff as clean-up crews try to keep pace with Wick’s ruthless rampage. From crunching “gun-fu” action scenes to violent punch ups in neon black-lit clubs the film is raw and messier than The Matrix with head shots coming as standard and the edited brawls as slick as Reeves’ oiled-back hair.

The story rolls on with the body count rising exponentially with strong support coming from Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Willem Dafoe and a dance club sequence is reminiscent of The Matrix – which is to be expected as the directors were part of the stunt crew from that film. The comparisons continue with a similar industrial/Marilyn Manson-infused rock soundtrack but the fights are rough and ready and every punch comes with a crack of bone and each kill ends in a bloody pool.

The narrative is simple but effective as Wick is shown to have connections everywhere and is universally respected whilst Tasarov’s increased frustrations lead him to put a price on Wick’s head with a number of contract killers getting involved to assassinate him. Whilst the movie continues with sparse story interspersed with inventive action sequences, the kills grow and by the end the film (according to the web) Wick has racked up 76 deaths! The closest film with the one-man-on-a-rampage vibe of late was the first Taken film which meshed a similar old-trope with a quality aesthetic. However the kill rate is that film was “only” 35 deaths. “Only”.

In summary, most viewers will hopefully enjoy seeing Reeves back in an action role whilst wisely avoiding his sometimes wooden delivery. His smart suit compliments the smart filmmaking techniques that prioritises sheen over depth but the movie is all the more fun for jettisoning any sense of reason and going for an ironic action bloodbath.

8/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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