Cinelinx finds bloody fun in Keanu Reeves' excellent JOHN WICK!
Former assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) comes out of retirement after he becomes the random victim of a senseless crime, at the hands of a former employer’s son. Also stars Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, and Adrianne Palicki.
Directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch.
At its core, John Wick is a simple, straightforward revenge film. There aren’t any surprise twists, and the story plays out about how you would expect. And yet, you’ll enjoy every bloody minute of this film, which easily ranks among Keanu Reeves’ best.
There are several reasons why John Wick excels, when it could have easily been another formulaic actioner. Co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (in their directing debut) have the ability to do something few directors know how to do today - film a legitimately entertaining fight scene. Their ability to craft an action scene is no coincidence; both Stahelski and Leitch come from a fight choreography background. They manage to show us what is happening, without a single quick edit or jerky camera movement in sight. It’s amazing how much competent filming techniques can elevate the look and feel of a movie.
John Wick also features a nice balance of style and substance, a rarity for any action film. The cinematography is inventive (we can thank director of photography Jonathan Sela), and directors Stahelski and Leitch are smart enough to let a scene, and indeed the plot, unfold at just the right pace. The directors admit to giving the film a hyper-realistic graphic novel feel, and with that, they take great care to appreciate the settings.
Even so, the look of the film is never used to cover any deficiencies in the storytelling. Although the film is a rather straightforward revenge tale, screenwriter Derek Kolstad injects some solid character development into the story, which in turn is brought to life by some excellent performances. Willem Defoe, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, and Lance Reddick all make the most of their limited supporting roles, crafting some truly interesting characters that make a lasting impression with the viewer, not unlike the standout supporting characters Judy Garland encountered in The Wizard of Oz, only bloodier and with more headshots.
It is Keanu Reeves, however, who truly makes the film work, as he turns in what is easily his best performance in years. Reeves’ acting style has been famously maligned for years, and in truth, his stoic demeanor is again on display here. It is, however, perfectly suited for the role, and unlike his past action roles, Reeves gets to show a little range. Although John Wick is cold and calculating most of the time, just beneath the surface are waves of sorrow and anger, and several times in the film, it comes through. Reeves shows some nice range in these scenes, and he gives John Wick an emotional depth unseen in other action films.
Above all, John Wick moves along at a feverish pace, and the kinetic, brilliantly staged fight scenes are both brutal and cleverly constructed. The action isn’t a confusing mess, and the acting and storyline aren’t merely bridges to the next tentpole fight scene. For their first time in the director’s chair, directors Stahelski and Leitch show a lot of originality in presenting a familiar story and craft a sophisticated, entertaining ride that rises above the standard action fare. If you can take the relentless violence, you’ll enjoy John Wick from start to finish.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Though the colors have been filtered and muted, the video image is outstanding, with superb detail. Much of the film takes place in very dark settings, and yet, the image holds up very well, with definitive distinction between the greys and the inky blacks. The audio is highlighted by an intense Dolby TrueHD Atmos Mix, which gives the gun fights the right crackle, and enough bass to feel each car wreck and gut punch.
The blu-ray for John Wick includes a nice selection of featurettes that provide a nice look behind the scenes of the film’s production, as well as an informative audio commentary with the directors.
Audio commentary. Directors Stahelski and Leitch provide a lively, entertaining audio commentary, in which they detail some interesting stories about the film’s production, including the challenges in producing the film on a modest budget.
“Don’t F*#% With John Wick” featurette. This 15 minute short covers the extensive planning for the film’s action scenes, with a focus on Keanu Reeves’ martial arts and stunt training. You’ll have a new appreciation for Reeves after watching this, as the 50-year-old actor performed most of his fight scenes, and even did most of the stunt driving in the film.
“Calling in the Calvary” featurette. This 12 minute featurette follows the approach Stahelski and Leitch took in crafting and casting the film.
“Destiny of a Collective” featurette. The partnership of co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch is the focus of this featurette.
“The Assassin’s Code” featurette. This five minute short explores the hyper-realistic world of the assassins John Wick inhabits. It also explains the significance of the gold coins used throughout the film.
“The Red Circle” featurette. The shootout at the Red Circle Club is highlighted in this short, and includes interviews with the stuntmen that brought the scene to life.
“NYC Noir” featurette. The influence of graphic novels on the look and style of the film is discussed.
Theatrical trailer. A theatrical trailer for the movie is included.
Digital copy. An Ultraviolet digital copy of the film is included, as is an iTunes digital copy.
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Running Time: 101 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD Atmos, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (Optimized for Late Night Listening), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: “Don’t [email protected]#% with John Wick” featurette, “Calling in the Calvary” featurette, “Destiny of a Collective” featurette, “The Assassin’s Code” featurette, “The Red Circle” featurette, “NYC Noir” featurette, Theatrical trailer, Digital copy.
Audio Commentary: With directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch.
Label: Summit Entertainment