Keanu Reeves quips and kicks and does it all with an impossible level of cool.
November 03, 2014
Artificial intelligence in video games has come a long way in the last few years. Rare now are the days of mindless drones walking pre-determined paths, completely oblivious to the death and destruction around them. In an industry where a single release can pull half a billion dollars in just one day, developers have adapted to an increasingly sophisticated market and pushed AI to a point capable of rivalling the human one.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for action movies, where nameless henchmen continue to run witlessly into hails of bullets like hapless Civil War foot soldiers or extras in Commando. The latest example of this is John Wick, a 'revenge porn' flick starring Keanu Reeves and directed by his former stuntman, Chad Stahelski.
Reeves plays Wick, a retired hit man whose wife has just passed away from a terminal illness. On the day of her funeral he receives a pre-ordered puppy from her to ensure he doesn't mourn alone, but during a home invasion the puppy is killed and his beloved car is stolen. In response, Wick unleashes a vengeance-fuelled rampage on New York's Russian mobsters, ratcheting up a body count to rival ebola. It's basically Taken, but with Liam Neeson's daughter played by a foot-long beagle.
Is it a dumb premise? Absolutely, but it's also terrifically fun, and let's face it, there have been far worse reasons given for cinematic rampages ("They're going to take you...again"). Stylistically, the action sequences are impressive and exhilarating. Kitted out in bespoke suits, Reeves combines martial arts with gunplay (or 'gun-fu') to despatch his enemies and secure what has to be the record for the most number of consecutive head shots. Stahelski's background in stunts clearly informs his direction, with a greater degree of physicality to the fight scenes coupled with lingering shots that hold longer in the same moment than your average film.
The big problem with John Wick, though, is the HS — or 'Henchman Stupidity'. In each of the action sequences, the goons demonstrate a bewildering lack of survival instinct, immediately forfeiting their Darwinian credentials and robbing the scenes of any credibility. The defence raised here is that John Wick is a classic B-movie, but that's too convenient. Yes, it has a lower budget than many of its counterparts, but with a cast that also includes Willem Dafoe, Michael Nyqvist, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Alfie Allen, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki and Bridget Moynahan, it's hard not to think the movie pitched for another capital B: 'Blockbuster'.
So no, this isn't the thinking person's action film, but an action film it definitely is. As always, Reeves is a delight to watch in full-borne badass mode. He quips and kicks and does it all with an impossible level of cool.