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Here’s Why ‘John Wick’ Won

By James Powell · October 28, 2014

The recent Nicolas Cage film Left Behind was directed by Vic Armstrong, a veteran stunt coordinator for Indiana Jones, James Bond, Mission: Impossible, Blade Runner, Star Wars and has over 117 credits to his name. Left Behind currently has a three percent on Rotten Tomatoes. John Wick on the other hand? A totally different story.

John Wick stars Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Defoe, Andrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo and Ian McShane.

Basically what John Wick boils down to is, don’t mess with John Wick. Keanu Reeves starts as our trigger-happy frontman, a recently deceased widower and former hitman who is grieving through his wife death and takes solidity in the form of a puppy and becomes his new focus on life. So when a series of events take place that end up with his puppy dead (it’s not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer), his car stolen and left for dead, John Wick decides to get back in the game and take no prisoners on his purist for revenge. And what occurs is a satisfying, fun, stylized, apologetically and greatly executed B-action movie that combines the great elements of modern and 80’s action tropes. Keanu Reeves is perfectly suited for the role, and displays his best attributes as an actor, while building up a cool underground world that is surely to excite.

Stuntmen extraordinaire, David Leitch and Chad Stahelski deliver some of the best action sequences we’ve seen all year that is both visual and physically inventive and polished in their execution. The action is immense, balls to the wall and highly clever by adopting this new “Gun-Fu” fighting style that is highly entertaining and shows a large amount of confidence by Leitch and Stahelski. They keep the action perspective in focus without the pressure of using montages, slow motion dubbed sequences; they effectively direct their action with meticulous use of wide shots with steady hand-held camera work that doesn’t fall into becoming overbearing with the amount of shaky cam and cuts used by most directors in mainstream action movies today (looking at you Michael Bay). The slick, stylized cinematography adds another layer of satisfaction to the experience that reminds us of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and Only God Forgives, with John Woo’s unapologetic action from films like Broken Arrow and Face-Off. Along with the visual aspects appealing to John Wick, screenwriter Derek Kolstad’s script creates a fun, high-octane, almost comic book like environment that never takes its story too seriously and creates this underbelly of a world that shows its society wrapped up in mystery and plays off well with its characters.

And with Keanu Reeves at the top of his game, he delivers his best performances since The Matrix as he shines through with his stoic, action star performance. Keanu gives John Wick the substance it needs, but knows how to have a good time with it. Sure some of the more dramatic, emotionally dialogue driven scenes maybe come off a bit bland or lack weight to them, but Keanu commits wholeheartedly to his role and for a man who just turned fifty, it’s great to see him still kicking ass and being up to part with the likes of the grizzled action starts of today.

The majority of the cast delivers highly above the material with Michael Nyqvist giving a quirky, archetype Russian mob boss performance that is more grounded than some would have played it off, but it is a whole ton of fun to watch. Ian McShane and Willem Defoe pop up in smaller roles as the mentors, and as always they bring nothing more than their brand of class, seasoned personas. Alife Allen is a minor blimp who seems a bit too bizarre, and Adrienne Palicki who does well with the action, but gives nothing more than being a femme fatale, but for femme fatale sake.

What John Wick ends up being is a silly, well-rounded, action fantasy flick that displays nothing groundbreaking in terms of story, but it delivers on everything it sets out to be, giving Keanu a much-needed return back to the limelight with a potential new franchise at his fingertips.

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