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John Wick

Reviewed By Greg Ursic
Posted 10/29/14 18:01:39

"Thugs beware: The day of Wickoning is at hand"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Confucius said “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Clearly he never had pissed off former assassins in mind, or he might have suggested the use of a backhoe and a large pit…

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a man with a very dark past, trying to cling to the vestiges of a normal life in the wake of his wife’s death. Unfortunately for him, and everybody involved, Iosef (Alfie Allen) the son of a Russian mobster, takes an unhealthy liking to Wick’s Mustang; in the process of “liberating” it, he destroys the final gift John's wife left him, unleashing an unstoppable whirlwind of destruction

After his turn in 2013’s unremarkable 47 Ronin, it looked like Keanu Reeves’ days as an action star were truly finished. And then along comes Wick; an antihero and study in contrasts, who looks like he’s been through the wringer, yet is always dressed impeccably, talks low and slow, and kicks copious amounts of ass. And Reeves wears the role well, dishing out death with some quality one-liners (when a cop visits his place after a blood bath and asks if he's “back in business”, he deadpans“No I'm just sorting some stuff out”). Alfie Allen does a serviceable job as the Slavic weasel while Ian McShane is amusing as the demure proprietor of a hotel for assassins with its own special code of conduct. Through no fault of his own, Michael Nyqvist's Viggo, was the weak link – as the head of the Russian mob, his character was in dire need of a much heavier dose of nasty.

Given director David Leitch and Chad Stahelski's extensive experience as stuntmen and stunt coordinators, it's little wonder that the action sequences look amazing; not only are they intricately choreographed - the balletic bar battle is worth the price of admission alone - they're visceral and pulse with energy. But it's also about what they're not: nausea inducing bouncing camera shots that seem to be de rigeur these days are noticeably absent, as are the maddening quick edits used to obscure what’s really happening (the action version of “fixing it in post”.)

In spite of the Shakespearean levels of tragedy, the dialogue is simple, the story straightforward, there are some great subtle touches and it's chock full of style. And aside from a few pacing stumbles, the action is outstanding. The only question is who will piss off Wick for the sequel?

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