An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him. With New York City as his bullet-riddled playground, JOHN WICK (Keanu Reeves) is a fresh and stylized take on the “assassin genre”. (C) Lionsgate
It’s funny what things will latch onto at the movie theaters. When commercials first started airing for John Wick I thought I was the only person that would be interested. I mean it’s Keanu Reeves going around shooting people in the face. Yet here we are a few weeks since release and it became a surprise hit with critics and audiences alike. It’s totally understandable too.
As seen in movies like Man of Tai Chi Keanu Reeves is still a convincing action star; particularly the man-of-few-words style hero. While his use of firearm looks odd (he holds a gun really tight to his chest like a T-rex in the movie) he is just as convincing using it in action scenes as he is in hand-to-hand combat. Whether it’s his legit interest in martial arts or run off from The Matrix he’s one of the more convincing American actors when it comes to choreographed fighting. This is helped by the movie having a great eye when it comes to visuals. Taking place in New York’s underbelly the world is saturated in dark blues and strobing lights. As typical as that look is it works beautifully here and creates a world unique to most US action movies.
The one thing I couldn’t get past was how unoriginal the movie is. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t expect Inception but you can see every beat coming a mile away. It’s no more original than a direct-to-video Van Damme movie. The same can be said of the movie’s action scenes. While unique to someone who only watches American film it felt like a lesser version of Hong Kong cinema to me. For example the gun play reminded me of a plethora of heroic bloodshed movies with it’s constant movement and fluidity (if that makes sense). Same goes for the hand-to-hand fight choreography. Using a mix of traditional martial arts and MMA it feels quite a bit like Donnie Yen’s fight choreography; Flash Point and Special ID in particular. That isn’t to say this is bad, quite the opposite. Taking what you can from Eastern influences is hardly new and it makes for an exhillarating ride. I just don’t think it’s as unique as some other critics have said.
All of that movie snobbery but I really did enjoy John Wick. Regardless of what was or wasn’t taken from other movies first time directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski made it work. With an old school revenge vibe and a different style than most action movies John Wick is a breathe of fresh air in a sea of superhero movies and Vin Diesel vehicles.