John Wick (2014): The Keanusance Begins!
Let’s face it, we all love Keanu Reeves! He is supposedly one of the nicest people in Hollywood today, and he blew us away with films like Speed (1994) and The Matrix Trilogy (1999-2003). However, it is safe to say he wasn’t in a whole lot of noteable movies, with the exception of The Man of Tai Chi (2010), until a decade later with John Wick (2014). While he may have still been working as an actor during that decade between The Matrix Revolutions (2003) and John Wick (2014), he was technically blacklisted from Hollywood during that time so mainstream roles were few and far between. Until stunt coordinator, Chad Stahelski, from The Matrix crew came looking for a leading man in his new action film. Thus, the Keanusance had begun!
John Wick is a retired assassin living in peace until his wife dies tragically of an unspecified illness. He then received a puppy from his wife after she died, hoping the dog will help him through the grieving process. Wick is sleeping one night when a few thieves break into his house, beat him, kill his dog, and steal his car. As fate would have it, the thief who stole his car just so happened to be the son of his former associate, Viggo Tarasov (portrayed by Michael Nyqvist). All out of hope, John Wick’s only option is to return to his past life and take revenge on those that stole what peace he had left.
The action and stunts in this movie are mind boggling. We live in an industry that has thrived off of quick cuts and shaky cam for what seems like forever, but in John Wick (2014) the camera is steady, and the editing is crisp with cuts that are few and far between, allowing the audience to get lost in all the action that is happening. It has also opened the door to what is now called “Gun-Fu”, using a gun while in hand to hand combat as a club of sorts. Not only that, but the night club scene in John Wick (2014) has to be one of the best choreographed and edited kill rampages in film history, a close second would be the home invasion around the end of the first act. I mean, he takes down at least a dozen guys before the camera cuts to a different shot! We also have to appreciate Reeves’ commitment to the role as John Wick: he was in his 50s and did his own stunts throughout production!
There isn’t much to criticize about the story here either, with it being a simple revenge romp, but we don’t really care. We were there to see Keanu Reeves kick butt as John Wick and we got it. The whole supporting cast is nothing to scoff at, with a particularly excellent casting of Ian McShane as Winston, the owner of Underworld safe haven The Continental. There’s just a coolness and charm McShane brings; I doubt anyone else could’ve brought in the hands of any other actors. Willem Dafoe is as great as ever, even if I wish he were in the sequels. Michael Nyqvist as Viggo was a great antagonist, just more so that he was a father trying to protect his son from Wick and Viggo just happened to be a mob boss. Viggo was willing to respect John’s retirement but once he heard his son killed John’s dog, he knew exactly what he had to do.
A top notch cast, simple story, eloquent world building, and pulse-pounding action, John Wick (2014) is a revenge thriller that keeps your eyes glued to the screen. With Keanu Reeves leading the charge as the not-so talkative assassin with a grudge and heart of gold, this movie gives continuous entertainment from start to finish. This level of success hasn’t been seen since The Matrix Trilogy concluded in 2003. Over a decade after Keanu Reeves found this initial success, he found a resurgence to mainstream popularity with this sleeper hit. With 2 successful sequels, a 4th film in the works, and along with the upcoming release of The Matrix: Ressurrections (2021), we are not done with the Keanusance just yet!