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Movie Review: “John Wick”

Oct 232014
 By , October 23, 2014
Movie Review: "John Wick"

John Wick

“John Wick” – a film review by Gary Chew

Just in time for the holidays and into 2015, John Wick has opened. Video game enthusiasts are sure to go hog wild, and what with the name “John Wick” as the title and the very same name being such a part of gaming, how can we lose?

John Wick But that’s not all: John Wick is, without doubt, the title role made in heaven — or some place like that — for Keanu Reeves. The Wick character is a human male, but robotic, and displays stilted body language. When he speaks, it’s usually in short phrases with hardly any inflections whatsoever.

Seriously, director David Leitch’s Wick is akin in tone to skinless pulpy fiction — a la Tarantino and gang buster entertainment. And what a gang of really creepy villains it provides for a couple of weekend hours at the cineplex in anybody’s burb. Read this cast list of good, creepy bad guys: Michael Nyqvist, Willem DaFoe, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo (in cameo) and Alfie Allen as the mob boss’s unruly and decadent son who’s best described as a Mick Jagger type, but good looking — sort of.

Adrianne Palicki, John WickThere’s another villain in this piece not so creepy and attractive. That’s Adrianne Palicki. Her character is almost as ruthless as Wick’s. Keanu and Adrianne don’t have a tryst in the movie, but they sure do have a hell of a scene fighting.

Wick is a retired hit man who is — yes, that’s right — forced out of retirement to get bloody revenge on a klatch of dirt bags who bring to an end something most dear to Wick just after the naturally caused death of his lovely wife. So it OK for Wick to bust butt all over town with impunity (Hardly any cops anywhere.) and our never being upset about the terrible retribution he wreaks on the “real” culprits.

John WickI lost count, but I’d guess Reeves’ character kills — and this is a conservative estimate — two-hundred-fifty people who “have it coming to them.” Vengeance is Keanu’s. And the subterranean dark comedy of it all had me in occasional stitches, except for some of the many way-too-long fight scenes and nerve-grinding chases and vehicle crashes. All so real.

John Wick can be a real hoot if you tune your antenna to the subtle schtick wrapped around all the comic book rat-a-tat-tat and bone breaking. Really. I mean it.

For his next film, I hope Reeves pushes the envelope more to make a really dark-action-comedy with, of course, him playing it straight among a cast that is ever so slightly more tongue-in-cheek than the cleverly selected actors who appear in John Wick.

Surely there must be a healthy market for Mr. Reeves to continue his career as we know it, but spreading his appeal to smaller audiences as well that would be entertained by the irony of another full-bore action-packed picture that Keanu Reeves is so adroitly able to handle.

President Truman has inaccurately been given authorship to the line, “Need a friend? Get a dog.” I will only say in closing that as John Wick closes, please recall that line Harry Truman didn’t say. Okay?

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Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.

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