John Woo-inspired ‘John Wick’ a good vehicle for Reeves
“John Wick” has the most nondescript flick title in a lengthy time frame. Without a glimpse at the poster or a preview, you would, like Iosef (Alfie Allen), the young son of a Russian gangster, have no fear of the unkempt squiggly bearded nobody (Keanu Reeves) who steals his classic Mustang, kills his puppy and leaves him brutally bloodied in his home.
After the theft, his dad Viggo (Michael Nyqvist) warns the upstart Iosef, “It’s not what you did that angers me so, it’s who you did it to.” Unable to strike a verbal deal, Viggo puts a $2 million dollar non-exclusive contract out on Wick. There are two takers: sniper Marcus (Willem Dafoe) and femme killer fatale Perkins (Adrianne Palicki).
As guns blaze and bodies fall, the hand to hand combat, martial arts, and blasting weapons display reminds of John Woo’s (Face/Off, Broken Arrow) so-called delicate “gun-fu” style introduced in Hong Kong as heroic bloodshed action staples like “Hard Boiled” and “A Better Tomorrow”.
A thrill ride of Visceral visual revenge, “John Wick,” abandons the subtle portion of underworld film noir. All the characters have hired killer pasts (except the dogs). Noir requires a dark atmosphere and New York’s lighted night skyline nicely amplifies the quick transitions to the garage, warehouse and harbor district, where brutality and skillful driving occur. For a touch of cool, they insert a brief video game overlap in a safe house. No telling what happens to the distracted player.
Co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch thoughtfully allow us to see an assassins near bullet proof “underwear,” which assists in acceptance of the accuracy of his aim and the vulnerability of the muscular slugger.
Just for a breather, the “code” of assassins contains a hotel deemed a “neutral zone” which contains a pristine gender equal battle along with the ironic “just checkin’ on the noise” complaint. A hidden dance club turns bloodless Dodge City when the towel draped junior mobster dashes through the dapper dressed couples ducking and running from Reeves’ automatic fire. (And none of the bystanders receive a scratch). Honor amidst carnage trickles back to a Woo plot device too that paired good/bad guys with traditional rules of battle and expediency temptations.
No one expects this to be the last of Mr. Wick, either. Reeves has carved himself a stringy dark haired 21st Century Charles Bronson “Death Wish” revenge claimer who’s quicker than Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” to pull a trigger and who’s Bruce Lee inspired reflexes will bring multiple blood lettings in the future on the big silver screen.
Trivia Moment: A guy named Basil produced and Ian McShane has his name in the credit crawl. What WV shot flick did the two team?