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Sunday, November 16, 2014

John Wick - A Film Review

I enjoyed seeing John Wick. It doesn't have a complicated plot, it's a revenge movie about a hitman who comes out of retirement to kill Russian mobsters that stole his car and killed his puppy, a gift from his dying wife. Keanu Reeves was awesome in it. He is excellent at playing stoic and quiet, just stalking across a room taking long strides as a very tall and lanky man, and just delivering pain to countless goons and mobster jerkoffs. I know he gets a lot of knocks for his acting, but this is one of his best movies he's ever done. There were a couple of scenes with him delivering raw emotion: one full of pain, the other full of anger, and I was impressed by how deep he dug into those scenes, it was really great.

The filmmakers are two stuntmen named Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. Stahelski doubled for Brandon Lee in The Crow and for Keanu Reeves in the Matrix movies, and is a highly accomplished stunt coordinator (Serenity, Ninja Assassin, The Expendables). Leitch has doubled for Brad Pitt and Jean-Claude Van Damme, and did stunt coordinating for V for Vendetta and Conan the Barbarian (the 2011 one). The fight scenes in John Wick are excellent. There are long pans where it's Keanu Reeves swiftly moving through goons using kung-fu and jujitsu, and the long shots without jumpy cutaways not only make the fight scenes look more brutal, but it feels like a breath of fresh air to watch a fight scene that is not all quick cuts, and full of excellent and beautiful staging of fight moves. And the fight choreographers took advantage of his long legs by having him do jujitsu grappling moves and being on the floor a lot.

The film has some good cameos and supporting roles by known character actors: Ian McShane as a hotel owner; John Leguizamo as a chop shop owner; David Patrick Kelly as a "cleaner," Willem Dafoe as John's best friend; Lance Reddick as a hotel manager, and Dean Winters as a mob lawyer and the comic relief.

I really like dark movies and action thrillers, especially when they remind me of gritty movies from the 80's a la Death Wish, The Punisher, Manhunter, and Maniac Cop. I recommend John Wick for the fight sequences and Keanu Reeves' performance.

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