Directed by: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch
Liam Neeson’s reinvention as an action hero has paved the way to several actors, whose careers were in limbo, to give this action movie thing a go. Kevin Costner did ‘3 Days to Kill’, Pierce Brosnan ‘The November Man’ and now Keanu Reeves stars as brooding former hitman John Wick. World weary, battle scarred and struggling with personal tragedy, these veteran actors have filled a gap in the market. Even Arnie and Sly have been able to have successful comebacks because no young guns have stepped up to the plate. We live in a time where cinema audiences of a certain age are crying out for “real men”. It’s why ‘The Expendables’ can make money at the box office. We crave testosterone fuelled monsters going on a blood thirsty rampage.
‘John Wick’ has a flimsy sickly beginning. Wick is a cold blooded killer with a broken heart. His wife has suddenly died, and a glimmer of hope trots into his life in the shape of a small puppy called ‘Daisy’. Daisy is the last connection to his wife. One afternoon the cocky spoilt son of a Russian mobster bumps into Wick at a petrol station and offers to buy his prized Mustang, Wick tells the guy to go swivel… in Russian. Later that night the Russians invade Wick’s home, beat him up, kill his dog and nicks the Cadillac.
This is the foot which kicks the wasps nest.
Wick then decides to gain vengeance.
What follows, after a weak start is some of the finest fight choreography I’ve seen in an American action movie as Wick declares war on Russian mobster Viggo Tarasov’s son Iosef. Wick, nicknamed “The Boogeyman” used to work for Viggo, so the mobster knows how dangerous Wick is, and puts a bounty on Wick’s head to try and protect his idiotic son. Viggo offers a number of deadly assassins two millions dollars to kill his former chief assassin.
As bodies fall and bullets fly it’s amazing how many former wrestlers and cage fighters you can spot. Former UFC fighter Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine, “Big Sexy” Kevin .Nash, and feared Sambo fighter Vladislav Koulikov to name but three. Reeves is excellent; adopting this strange hybrid gun-fu mix that incorporates Krav Maga and Brazilian Ju Jitsu as he despatches villains left, right and centre.
When we do pause and the gun smoke clears and the blood trails dry the solid acting is provided by reliable guys like Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, Michael Nyqvist and Ian McShane. This is necessary because Reeves, an actor frequently criticised for his wooden performances, needs good actors around him, solid workers to carry him. ‘John Wick’ works so well because of this.