Keanu Reeves in Ludicrous Premise as ‘John Wick’

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Average: 5 (2 votes) Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Keanu Reeves has been in a lot of dogs over the years, but rarely has he left such a high body count while avenging one of them. “John Wick” is a brutal revenge thriller where Reeves is a ex-mob enforcer who goes on a murderous rampage leaving blood on every doorstep to avenge the death of his dog. Despite that chuckle-inducing premise, “John Wick” isn’t the dog I expected, but then again that’s not saying much.

Wick is another of those crime thrillers that begins at the end. We see Reeves crash his SUV, stumble out bleeding and then watch a video on his phone and pass out, and flashbacks ensue. In the interest of time we skip over his wife dying in a terse 5 minutes or so, while the next 20 are consumed by the sights of Reeves making coffee, grieving, and then getting a farewell parting gift from beyond the grave when a dog with a note from his dearly departed wife is delivered to his doorstep.

Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves is the Title Character in “John Wick”
Photo credit: Summit Entertainment

After some Russians try to buy his muscle car at a gas station and he refuses, they break-in to Reeves’ house, steal his Mustang, and kill his dog. This sets the revenge plot in motion, but it’s pretty thin gruel to start. I couldn’t help thinking of “The Big Lebowski” and his quest to find out who peed on his rug. That seemed more plausible than this – dead wife or not.

All the characters talk of Reeves’ character “John Wick” in the hushed tones reserved for mysterious legends and formidable foes. Reeves was a legendary hit man who left the old life behind to be with the woman he loved. One character talks of Wick’s almost superhuman abilities to kill 3 men with a pencil. If only the movie were able to live up to that ludicrous promise.

Instead, we get a series of fight scenes that are fairly pedestrian and almost too easy. Reeves has noticeably slowed down since his “Matrix” days but he’s still a credible street fighter. The fights themselves aren’t terribly well-choreographed so sometimes it looks like he just walked into a room full of guys only too eager to take a dive, as they throw themselves down just a split second before he delivers the fatal blow.

Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves Wreaks Havoc in “John Wick”
Photo credit: Summit Entertainment

And with such a thin reed of story, those fight scenes and stunts need to carry the picture. It’s refreshing that the film seems to be relatively CGI-free, preferring old school exploitation picture grit. But I found myself easily distracted by continuity errors and other movie mistakes. Take for example the way Reeves jumps from a dry moving car, but by the time he lands on the ground, it’s pouring rain.

All in all, “John Wick” is a reasonable off-brand exploitation picture set to be coming to a Walgreens bargain bin near you on a double bill with another of Reeves’ forgotten thrillers. It can be a real dog-eat-dog world at the box office.

“John Wick” opens everywhere on October 24th. Featuring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Bridget Moynahan. Written by Derek Kolstad. Directed by Chad Stahelski. Rated “R” contributor Spike Walters


© 2014 Spike Walters,

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