John Wick (2014)
Directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch
Is that Keanu Reeves and Brad Pitt directing “John Wick”? No, but it may look like it at first glance. That’s because the real directors, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, are used to stunt doubling for Mr. Reeves and Mr. Pitt in movies like “The Matrix” and “Fight Club.” In fact, the stuntmen have over 150 screen credits between them, both doubling as actors and choreographing fight scenes for them. The duo worked together to coordinate the stunts in movies like “300,” “V for Vendetta,” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” For the first time, though, they combine their talents from the directors’ chairs. And the result is just as exciting as you’d hope.
The story starts and ends like any action movie. The retired hitman, played by Keanu Reeves. The dead wife. The violent thugs, led by the intimidating Michael Nyqvist. The hunt for revenge. The plot twist. The rainy final showdown. Screenwriter Derek Kolstad only knows cheesy action plots — he had written only two failed Dolph Lundgren flicks before this. But when everything else works as well as it does, the words become less important to the understanding of the overall story. In fact, the first few minutes let us soak in the backstory with very few words at all. Action A-lister Keanu Reeves has a way of making lousy action movies entertaining. As John Wick, Reeves gives his most bad-ass performance since his first turn as Neo in “The Matrix.” Under the direction of two men who make coordinating fight scenes their life, Reeves hits the peak of action movie perfection. I couldn’t look away as Reeves donned a black suit (Was it the one he wore to his wife’s funeral? I couldn’t tell for certain) and killed his way through gangsters whose job it was to stop him in his tracks. Not only does Keanu Reeves pull out an arsenal of impressive weaponry, but thankfully we also see him taking full advantage of his years of martial arts experience. He takes a fair share of men down with his bare hands, exuding cool the whole time.
On the surface it might seem same ol’, same ol’, but “John Wick” is better than the average action movie. Plus, it reintroduces Keanu Reeves in a way his last few movies have failed to do. Welcome back, buddy.