Movie Review: “John Wick”

Grade: B

Movie Review: “John Wick”

“John Wick” is a shoot ‘em up with style, filled with action and moments of self-referential levity.

In this revenge thriller, Keanu Reeves (“The Day the Earth Stood Still”) plays the consummate assassin with effortless cool and restrained vulnerability. His relationship with his wife (Bridget Moynahan, “Battle: Los Angeles”) and her unexpected death are quickly depicted in vignettes. Wick is deeply mourning his wife’s passing, filling his house with photographs of their memories.

Mrs. Wick posthumously gifts a beagle to John, with a note reading: “You need someone to love, and this card doesn’t count.” Once Russian mobsters invade Wick’s home, kill his dog, steal his ‘69 Mustang and leave him writhing in pain, Wick’s focused rage begins to simmer. He re-enters the underworld of New York crime, creating carnage on his path to retribution.

In the hands of Reeves and co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, New York City becomes an assassin’s playground. Wick manipulates his environment in a way that can be best described as “murder parkour.” This well-refined action is on display in an epic scene at the Red Circle, a combination nightclub-spa. Dazzling fight choreography takes full advantage of Wick’s surroundings. The cinematography is crisp and fast-paced but not blurry or hard to follow.

Occasional moments of humor contrast well with the action. Self-referential one-liners are often unexpected, making light of otherwise dark situations. After the mobsters rob Wick, the film’s chief antagonist, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist, “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”), is informed of his son’s actions over the phone. Once Viggo realizes the gravity of his son stealing from “the Boogeyman,” he can only utter a tepid “Oh,” before ending the call.

The graphic violence in “John Wick” may disturb some. Its sparse, simplistic dialogue may turn off others. But for its targeted audience of action fans, it will surely entertain and may even astonish.

“John Wick” (R, 101 min) opens in theaters nationwide on Oct. 23.

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