John Wick had been out awhile and at first I had little interest in seeing it as, for me, Keanu Reeves is generally whatever the opposite of a selling point is. However I kept hearing about how this was a bit of a throw back of an action movie and upon reading the connection between the director and Keanu, I thought I would have to put aside my preconceived notions and give this movie a shot.
The movie had two ex-stunt men (one of which was Keanu Reeves' former stunt double) helming this film. This resulted in a lot of practical effects instead of heavy reliance on green screen. Also familiarity with Reeves likely left the directors with a base knowledge with how far they could push the star. This left the film's action scenes clean, realistic, to the point, and a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
If I was going to break down the film's format, well it is of the "semi-generic Punisher type, ex bad ass comes out of retirement to take on other bad asses" type variety. It was 75% Japanese yakuza film, 20% Film Noir, and 5% video game. One stylistic element that jumped out at me right away was the choice to go with a narrow scope of field for focus. At first I thought maybe this was the projector in the theater but then I realized it was a choice made for the film. Normally this would annoy me slightly, and I suppose still did, as I am a big fan of depth of field, mise–en–scènes set ups (Citizen Kane is one of my favorite films). I came to terms with the stylistic choice made for this film as it reminded me so much of Eastern influences, in this case it was reminiscent of Zen ink and brush compositions, where the sharpness lies in where the brush first touches down and the edges disappear into an almost mist like effect.
While Keanu sold the action pieces well, he wasn't asked to do too much to stretch his stoic emotional range, which is just what the film required. He was pretty much perfect for this part if I had been for some reason been asked to recast this film, I would be hard pressed to find a better fit. This would have been right up Jason Statham's alley, however there is nothing more he could have added to it. There was something quietly instance about Reeves that made you feel that he was one not to be trifled with. Statham will always remind me of the character he played in Snatch, which was not at all overly menacing or intimidating. Rather, if I had my choice of an alternative, I would delve further into the Japanese gangster genre and extract Chow Yun-fat. Reeves was 49 in this film and still convincing as an ass kicker. Chow Yun-fat would have been ten years older, but that would have further added to the realism of a retired hit man that is unwillingly dragged back into the 'business'.
Speaking of performances, this film was full of great character actors from the action genre and otherwise. One of these performances that I was not overly fond of was that of Alfie Allen. You probably know him as the dickless Theon Greyjoy. He worked in the part in that he was highly unlikable, however I was not sure which accent he was trying to commit to. This brings me to another flaw of the film. Many of the baddies simply did not measure up to be worthy of the John Wick challenge. A spoiled brat son of a crime boss nor the crime boss himself, an old man that the film gave no hint as to any physical prowess until the anticlimactic final battle gave any feeling that the fight would go any other direction except to a single minded John Wick killing stroke.
I highly recommend this film if you are a fan of good action. This easily ranks as one of the pure action movies of 2014. Judged as just a movie, it is simple in story structure, but what it does it does very well.
Blarv Score out of 10: 8.8