2 out of 5 stars.
Don't mess with John Wick's dog. In fact, just stay the hell away from John Wick (opening today), the man and the movie. Who is John Wick, you might ask? Well, let me tell you. He just happens to be one of the world's biggest bad-asses, an assassin for hire who makes Chuck Norris look like a paraplegic Glass Joe. He is THE John Wick and you don't want to mess with him. OK? Got it? Good.
John Wick is played by Keanu Reeves who overacts and under-delivers all at once. Wick is a now-retired hitman whose wife has recently passed away due to an illness, not any wrong-doing or job-related reasons. As he sulks around his mansion after her death, there is a knock on the door and a delivery: It's a note from his now-dead wife telling him to enjoy her last gift to him, the enclosed puppy dog. Wick befriends this amazingly cute pooch, valuing it as the only living, breathing connection that he still has with his wife.
Spoiler alert! A group of hooligans led by a weaselly dumb-sh**, Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, Theon Greyjoy for those who know him from Game of Thrones) sees Wick's cool car out on the road and they follow him home to pull off an armed robbery. In the scuffle, they kill his dog. Everything leading up to that was sort of acceptable, but not the dog, man. When word gets back to Iosef's mob-boss father, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), that it was John Wick that his son stole from, he all but bends over and prepares for the thorough reaming that is coming his way.
The premise of an assassin put over the edge by the death of his dog does inspire a chuckle...but it shouldn't have spawned a movie. There are some stylish early moments, but not enough to sustain the whole picture. The movie does work in establishing a certain campy feel early on, where we sort of root for it because of the fact that it doesn't take itself too seriously. But it quickly unravels, devolving into a bullets-before-brains revenge thriller that is as common to the genre as the poor faceless thugs that run themselves into Wick's fists at every turn.
Willem Dafoe plays an under-cooked friend (or foe?) of Wick and John Leguizamo shows up as a chop shop owner who gets tangled up in the mess. Nyqvist has fun hamming it up as a super-villain who knows he is up against an unstoppable force, but everything wears away when the last half of the movie just becomes one chase, one fight, one action-scene upon another.
Another cool element was the idea of a hotel that acts as a resting place for assassins, a sort of Holiday Inn for crooks. Lance Reddick plays the hotel manager and Ian McShane shows up as well. Nobody is given enough screen time for us to care.
John Wick is the sort of mindless movie that you get when you give two long-time stunt men (David Leitch and Chad Stahelski) the directorial reins. This whole movie is a high-flying stunt, with every frame meant to inspire awe, but it supplies us with nothing more. It's a firework: Bright and glorious for a few minutes, but soon fading away into a meaningless see of others just like it. And soon, altogether forgotten.
What was I just talking about?
Genre: Action, Thriller
Run Time: 1 hour 41 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki
Directed by David Leitch & Chad Stahelski (feature-film directorial debuts)
Opens locally on Friday, Oct 24, 2014
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