Reeves revives the screen in “John Wick”

U-News Staff

Directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski transport viewers into the fantastic world of contract-killers with stunning visuals, an all-star cast at the top of their game and well-choreographed action in the new action film, “John Wick.”

John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves, leaves behind his life of contract-killing to be with his wife, who dies of unspecified medical complications early in the film. Wick receives a final gift from his wife when a puppy arrives at his doorstep with a letter asking him to never mourn alone.

If there is one certain way to grab the hearts of an audience, it is with a puppy. Home invaders steal Wick’s car and kill the puppy, which subsequently prompts Wick to go on a killing spree for revenge. Wick’s killing spree may be one of the most gratifying things shown on screen this year. With nothing to lose on his quest to avenge his fallen canine companion, Wick butchers his way through dozens of Russian mobsters and lackeys with grace and smoldering contempt.

“John Wick” takes place in a mysterious world of hit-men, which is surprisingly well-developed given its vague explanation beyond visualization. A portion of the film takes place at The Continental, a hotel which caters exclusively to an elite community of assassins who share a common code and pay for everything in gold coins. A shady body disposal service exists in this universe, which will clean up the aftermath of any killer who places a “dinner reservation” with them for the price of one gold coin.

Few directors pay this level of attention to detail in the choreography of action sequences. Leitch, who has a background in stunt-acting, directs impressive long takes where Reeves moves from henchman to henchman in a dance of death. These compelling sequences, often scored to diegetic club music are mesmerizing.

Reeves is electric. His subtlety demonstrates a depth of character not demonstrated by Reeves since “The Matrix,” and his mournful-revenge is played out in every scene, which reminds the audience that there is a character at the center of the film, and not just bullets and explosions. In what could revive his career and begin a franchise, Reeves delivers a solemn yet driven performance which shapes both the protagonist and the film.

Rotten Tomatoes, which delivers grades to films based on aggregate critical reviews, gave “John Wick” an 86 percent on the Tomatometer. “John Wick” graduates from the typical stock of action films with its compelling narrative and hypnotizing action, and is worth the admission price.