Thursday, February 26, 2015

John Wick: Action Entertainment of the First Order.

Movie Review: John Wick

Director: Chad Stahelski

Reviewed: 26 February 2015

jamesintexas rating--****


John Wick is an undeniable masterpiece, a true ballet of death and mayhem with more gunshots to the head and vicious violence than should be allowable; yet somehow, everything comes together, and it works. It must be the magic of Keanu Reeves and a clear, sleek vision from director Chad Stahelski.

John Wick takes familiar tropes of gangsters and ex-killers, fathers and sons, unwritten codes, honor among thieves, and pure malevolence, and, somehow, mixes it all up together in a fun, fresh way, and makes them all work. Every time a familiar actor popped up in this film for a brief cameo or supporting role, I smiled. Beyond it being cast extremely well, it has a sense of style that sets it apart from the crowd, a slickness and a sheen to its cars, hotels, clubs, and weaponry. Reeves play the eponymous main character, a man pulled back into the world of violence that he thought he left because of a thoughtless crime.  To say more would be to take away from the film.  Really, that's all you need to know.

The film is so lean and so efficiently told that it eschews catch-phrases and pithy one-liners for an existential sort of mystique. What can be said about Keanu Reeves?  In a nearly silent performance, he is remarkable. His physicality is truly that of a dancer, and he out-Matrixes himself in this film, and he morphs into an older, tougher warrior. It might be his best work yet.

There is some incredible world-building here with the gold coins and secret dance clubs and the minor characters who could have their own movies. I feel like the film owes some of its power to video games and their kinetic movement, yet I don't want to discredit or disparage John Wick at all.  Like The Raid several years ago, I found the film compulsively watchable, and it was the first movie in a long while that as soon as it ended, I wanted to watch it again.  And again.  It is one of my top five favorite films of the year. 


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