Keanu makes fine comeback in stylish revenge thriller

John Wick
John Wick

KEANU REEVES makes for an intriguing — and ultimately successful — leading man choice in this ultra-violent revenge movie. But when you strip back the stylised action, there’s very little originality going on here.

Reeves proves to be smart casting, however, as the title character, a lean, mean fighting machine who made a living as a professional killer before walking away and settling down for love. 

But when his wife dies in tragic circumstances, the vulnerable Wick is left picking up the pieces of his somewhat solitary new life. His only friend, it seems, is a puppy, left behind by his wife in the hope it will help him cope with her demise. 

He spends his days bonding with the mutt while driving around in his treasured Mustang. 

But when he falls foul of a nasty Russian gang (led by Alfie Allen) who take exception to his refusal to sell the car, both car and puppy meet an ugly end, incurring the wrath of Wick. Yep, it’s a country and western song dressed up as a revenge action thriller.

Reeves proves to be a smart blank canvas for the characterisation of Wick and — coupled with a spareness of dialogue (this killer’s not a big talker) — you’re initially unsure of quite what he’s capable of and what he’s going to do next. 

It makes for an engaging first hour. But ultimately John Wick flails a little in its execution.

And what executions. The body count is high and the deaths graphic, and those who care about those things will certainly get their fix. 

This is the directorial debut of David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, who both had backgrounds in stunt work before going behind the camera. And it shows. The action sequences are slick with lots of martial arts used and nods and references to Asian action cinema. 

Ultimately, though, I found the sheer level of violence extreme and distracting, and when it is the only element that’s driving the plot — as it is in the latter stages of this film — then it’s a real problem. 

There’s no denying that John Wick is a stylish film and that Reeves has not lost his leading-man charisma, but the movie ultimately turns into a cliched revenge thriller, and even the killing, ugly as it is, becomes monotonous. 

John Wick (16) HHH

THE VERDICT: A lean thriller that descends into video-game blood and guts.