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dir Chad Stahelski
scr Derek Kolstad
prd Basil Iwanyk, David Leitch, Eva Longoria, Mike Witherill
with Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Toby Leonard Moore, Omer Barnea, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynahan
release US 24.Oct.14, UK 10.Apr.15
14/US Summit 1h41
Down but hardly out: Reeves
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
One of the most achingly cool thrillers in years, this stylish film mixes a moody atmosphere with jagged black comedy. At its core, this feels like an inevitably tragic descent into a fantastically shady underworld of crime and death. And it's utterly exhilarating.
John Wick (Reeves) is a broken man, devastated by the death of his wife (Moynahan). Then he takes delivery of a ludicrously cute puppy sent from her to keep him company. But this glimmer of hope is crushed when Russian goon Iosef (Allen) invades his house, steals his vintage Mustang and kills the dog. So John reopens his past as an unstoppable mob fixer, even though Iosef's dad Viggo (Nyqvist) is his former boss, putting the entire Russian mafia in John's crosshairs. Then Viggo puts a huge bounty on John's head. As if.
Director Stahelski skilfully balances the John's morose private world with the wry, cynical criminal society he re-enters. Even as his soul is crushed, John dives into fierce action sequences that feel increasingly desperate but never choreographed. This is fiendishly inventive filmmaking with electrically coiled energy, eye-catching production design and heart-pounding action. As the plot twists and escalates it becomes clear that everyone knows that taking on John is futile.
Everyone except Iosef, that is. And Allen brings a terrific cocky energy to this moron who opens the floodgates of hell on his family and colleagues. Nyqvist is superb as his father, who knows what's coming. And scenes are filled out with offbeat supporting characters, including Dafoe and Palicki as John's old friends, fellow assassins now hired to kill him. McShane and Reddick add some colour as sardonic members of the mob community. And at the centre Reeves is perfectly cast as a figure of legend, quietly doing a job he'd rather avoid.
The movie drags us deep into this parallel reality with sharply observed details, vivid characters and a plot that feels fateful but unpredictable at the same time. Everyone in the story knows that they're doomed, but they come out guns-blazing anyway. Even as a revenge fantasy, Kolstad's script dares to seek ways to avoid carnage. But the intractable characters seem intent on bringing down the apocalypse. So in its own deranged way, this becomes an intriguingly cautionary tale for those who underestimate loyalty, believe violence can fight violence, or think all of this is just about a car and a dog.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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