Reeves has proven himself to be a talented action star with star turns in clichéd movies such as “Point Break”, “Speed”, and most famously, “The Matrix”, but what has often gone unnoticed is how good of an actor he is capable of being with the right material. After such critical and box-office disasters “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “47 Ronin”, “John Wick” is some of the best material Reeves has been given the opportunity to be a part of , and he has never been better.
Reeves plays Wick, a recent widower who has fallen victim to mob brutality. The full extent of this brutality shall not be revealed here, but he has a special background that enables him to fight back in an extreme and forceful way. Among his targets are notorious Russian mob boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), his son Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen), an assassin known as Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), among other bodyguards and mobsters at Tarasov’s disposal. The story is that simple.
The appeal of this film is not its intricate plot developments, but rather its old school approach to action. Directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, with Leitch taking producer credit and Stahelski taking director credit due to guild regulations, both have had a background in stunt work in films such as “The Matrix”, “V for Vendetta”, and “300”, and their experience shows as they flawlessly maneuver through every action set piece in the movie. So, yes, there are tons of action scenes featured here, but there is also a surprising amount of humor and emotion packed into the film due to the excellent writing by Derek Kolstad and the energetic performances onscreen.
Reeves is perfect. His dramatic work in films like “The Gift” and “Something’s Gotta Give” are overshadowed by parts in which he was miscast. As Wick, he is not only physically game for the stunt work, but he expertly performs every emotional beat as well. His character’s motivation for taking on ‘the bad guys’ may seem lazy and cliché on paper, but Reeves makes it work due to his commitment to making his part seem fully realized. Everyone else in the film is fantastic. Allen and Palicki are both mean and fun villains that audiences love to hate, and Nyqvist takes a formulaic criminal role and turns him into one of the most interesting and surprisingly comical villains without ever becoming a clown.
This film does not set out to blow viewers away with plot twists, but rather to make them enjoy every bit of the 101 minute running time. The writing is better than it has any right to be, the filmmakers add mood and style that holds its own with any successful action film without ever feeling like mimicry, and most of all, Reeves proves that he is not retired to making flops. “John Wick” is not an important film, but it is one of the most entertaining and thrilling movies that has come out this year, and that’s enough.