Title: John Wick
This Time, It's Personal? And how.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Four Chow Yun-Fats out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Retired button man is unable to comprehend the concept of "proportionate response."
Tagline: "Don't set him off."
Better Tagline: "Sadness is a cold puppy" (with apologies to Charles Schultz).
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis It's been a tough week for John Wick (Keanu Reeves). His wife just succumbed to a long illness, but not before arranging to have an adorable beagle puppy delivered to John after the funeral, to help him with the healing process. Things are tentatively looking up when Russian thugs steal his car and kill the dog. Little do they realize Wick used to be one of the most feared assassins in the underworld, and even the fact one of the doggie murderers (Game of Thrones' Alfie Allen), is the son of mob boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) won't prevent him (and dozens upon dozens of others) from reaping the Wick whirlwind.
"Critical" Analysis: We're 15 years removed from The Matrix, and Keanu Reeves just turned 50, which raises the legitimate question of whether or not the once and future Ted 'Theodore' Logan is still capable of anchoring an action movie, with or without the wire fu. Turns out we needn't have worried. Leaving aside the issue of whether Reeves is, in fact, immortal, he brings a frantic energy to John Wick we haven't seen since he took the red pill. And freed (mostly) of visual trickery, the effect is much more viscerally entertaining.
This is the inaugural feature film for co-directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, both of whom were Hollywood stuntmen in their previous careers (fun fact: Stahelski was Reeves' stunt double in Point Break, Constantine, and the Matrix trilogy). The pair waste little time getting down to business, sparing only a few brief flashback scenes of Wick's wife and giving us the bare minimum time necessary to become attached to Daisy, Wick's adorable (and doomed) pup.
Gearheads may be more devastated by the loss of Wick's '69 Mustang. Because let's be honest: beagles are plentiful, but they only made a few hundred of those Boss 429s.
Once the mayhem starts, there's not much for it but to grab your popcorn and enjoy the [lack of] silence. Wick is the smoothest cinematic death-dealing machine since Vince in Collateral (the "Red Circle" nightclub scene in John Wick is very reminiscent of the former), though Leitch and Stahelski increase the body count by an order of magnitude while also creating a somewhat fantastical secret society of killers who operate by that code of ethics peculiar to fictional underworld types.
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This includes Marcus (Willem Dafoe, speaking of guys who don't age), a former "associate" of Wick's who nevertheless accepts Viggo's contract offer. Sardonic performances are also on hand courtesy of Lance Reddick as the manager of "The Continental" (no, not that one), a neutral ground hotel for hitmen, and Ian McShane as a sort of warden making sure everyone plays by the rules (spoiler: everyone doesn't).
Stealing the movie, however, is Nyqvist (you may remember him from the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy). I wouldn't call him "chilling," except in the sense that all Russians in the Age of Putin apparently are, but he brings a mordant sense of humor to a role that could easily have been a stock Big Bad.
Plot wise, there's nothing here you haven't seen a hundred times before (hell, you just saw it last month); retired soldier/hitman/obstetrician loses his house/family/stamp collection and is once again forced to unlimber his skills and wreak sanguinary vengeance. What makes John Wick work is a rejuvenated Reeves, an abundance of smartly crafted action scenes, and a cast that realizes the movie they're in is patently ridiculous but wisely decides to just roll with it.
John Wick is in theaters today. Hug your dogs, people.