This weekend one of the most multipurpose and enduring movie stars of the past 30 years returns to the screen. Kevin Spacey? No.
Daniel Day-Lewis? Na’ah. Gary Oldman? Nyet. It’s Keanu Reeves.
Wait! Isn’t he the guy critics love to hate? That Reelviews said was, “an actor of exceptionally limited scope” just as the Daily Mail called his performance in Constantine an “impersonation of a sleep-walking plank”?
Yes, one in the same. He’s The Matrix’s Neo, the Ted of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Point Break’s Johnny Utah.
This weekend he’s the title character in John Wick: Chapter 2, a down-and-dirty noir and follow up to the original 2014 hit.
The actor’s latest incarnation represents another reinvention in a career spent keeping audiences guessing. He’s gone on existential journeys, wooed Diane Keaton and played a peaceful extraterrestrial ambassador but Wicks is something else again.
The Wick movies are set in an alternative world of assassins where hit men and women are paid in special coins, stay in exclusive hotels — with killer views no doubt — and speak in a strangely formal way.
They see themselves as professionals with a civilized code of conduct… except that there is nothing civilized about the work they do. In the first film Wick was an assassin so tough he didn’t bother to take off his gore-soaked shirt when beginning his bloody quest for vengeance.
John Wick, the movies and the character are blunt, über macho instruments, brought to life by Reeves in a performance that cripples the argument Today.com made that he is simply a “reciter of dialogue.” First of all there is very little dialogue.
The opening 15 minutes of the first film is essentially a silent movie kept interesting by Reeves’s action hero charisma.
Unlike Meryl Streep he can’t do accents and he doesn’t have the range of some of his former co-stars like Oldman but what he does have is presence.
At his best Keanu understands how to be on screen. Author Bret Easton Ellis said that Reeves “is always hypnotic to watch,” and what is a movie star if not someone you can’t take your eyes off?
The Wick movies cap a busy and unpredictable time for the actor. After Speed and The Matrix he could have stuck to action films and made a career running, jumping and kicking people. Instead he diversified, jumping from romances like Sweet November to crime dramas like The Watcher to The Replacements, a sports comedy.
From studio movies to indies he is unpredictable in his choices, defying expectations. Take his erotic horror thriller Knock Knock for instance. He plays a man held captive in his own home by three female home invaders. It’s not a remarkable movie — I called it “deeply unpleasant” in my review — but what makes it interesting is Keanu’s character’s complete inability to protect himself. Most A-listers wouldn’t allow themselves to be portrayed as such easy prey, but Keanu relishes the chance to upend our view of him.
For sure Reeves has made some bad movies and even been bad in some movies but that sometimes happens when actors don’t play by the rules.
In John Wick, the character not the incredibly violent movies that bear his name, Keanu Reeves has found the pure essence of, for lack of a better word, Keanuness. Reeves has never been the most expressive actor, his appeal is physical and metaphysical. He can run, jump, shoot and punch with the best of them—that’s the physical part—but at the crux of his performances is a certain otherworldliness that makes him seem slightly detached from it all. He found the right balance in “the Matrix” and again in “John Wick: Chapter 2.”
The Wick movies are set an alternative world of assassins where hit men and women are paid in special coins, stay in exclusive hotels—with killer views no doubt—and speak in a strangely formal way. They see themselves as professionals with a civilized code of conduct… except that there is nothing civilized about the work they do. In the first film Wick was an assassin so tough he didn’t bother to take off his gore-soaked shirt when beginning his bloody quest for vengeance.
The new film picks up shortly after the events of the first. Wick wants a simpler life, away from the violence that has been his business. His retirement plan is disrupted when a former colleague, Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio), asks a favour. Actually, it’s more than a favour, it’s a marker, a promise to repay a debt, and Santino takes it very seriously. Santino’s request is an insidious one; kill my sister so I can take her place on the crime High Table.
“I’m not that guy anymore,” says John. “You are always that guy,” sneers Santino.
Rebuffed, Santino blows up John’s house. To put an end to the impending war Wick agrees to the job. His home a smoldering pile of ash, Wick re-enters his old world. A visit to the gun sommelier—“Can you suggest something big and bold for the end of the night?” he asks.—to a tailor who makes suits lined with tactical fabric and he is ready to square his debt.
(MILD SPOILER) Wick’s plan to return to a quiet life after the job is thwarted by a single phone call. “What kind of man would I be if I didn’t avenge my sister’s murder?” asks Santino. Cue a showdown with bad people with a seemingly endless amount of henchmen for John Wick to kill.
“John Wicks” created a wild world for its characters to inhabit that is unlike anything that came before. The second visit is almost as engaging. Much humour is found between the gunfights as these ruthless killers behave in a courtly way when not trying to bash one another’s brains out. It’s funny, but know this, it also very violent. Wick is a sentimental guy—this whole journey began when someone did something terrible to his beloved dog—but that doesn’t stop him from offing upwards of 140 people in the two hour running time. Much of the violence is goofy but tinged with hardcore Old Testament wrath.
As the man so mysterious he doesn’t even give his new dog a name, Reeves is in his element. It’s pure Keanu, a physical performance with very little dialogue. Think of him as a silent movie action star, an actor who transcends dialogue with sheer charisma. Like him or not, the guy understands how to be on camera, especially when he’s in motion, causing carnage.
Populating Wick’s world are a host of colourful characters brought to vivid life by Laurence Fishburne as the underworld boss of lower Manhattan, Ian McShane as Winston, the man who enforces the rules in the assassin’s twisted world, Common as a gin sipping security boss and Ruby Rose as a deadly and deaf killer.
As a sequel “John Wick: Chapter 2” hits all the right notes. It’s a tad too long but fans of the original will be reminded of why they fell in love with John Wick in the first place.
The old saying goes a man is allowed to cry twice; when his mom dies and when his dog dies. A new film, “John Wick,” suggests otherwise. There’s no mom in sight, but when John Wick’s (Keanu Reeves) dog bites the biscuit prematurely, he doesn’t cry. Instead he reigns holy hell down on the men responsible.
When we first meet John Wick he resembles the Sad Keanu meme. He’s a broken hearted man whose wife has recently passed away. Working through his grief he mopes around the house and does super cool things like speeding his 1970 Mustang around a private track. He’s a loner until a package arrives at his door. It’s a puppy, sent by his wife just before she died, in the hopes that the dog’s love will help ease his pain.
For a time it works, but when some very bad men break into his house to steal his Mustang, the dog winds up as collateral damage. With the last living touchstone to his late wife gone, Wick reverts back to his old ways as a mad, bad and dangerous to know assassin bent on revenge. How wicked is John Wick? “Is he the boogeyman?” asks one former associate. “He was the one we sent to kill the boogeyman.”
“John Wick” is a down-and-dirty noir that builds an alternative world of assassins where hit men and women are paid in special coins, stay in exclusive hotels—with killer views no doubt—and speak in a strangely formal way. They see themselves as professionals with a civilized code of conduct… except that there is nothing civilized about the work they do. This is a gloriously gratuitous movie with violence that approaches an all out Tarantino-style blood bath.
It’s terse, with very little dialogue. In the first fifteen minutes there are only a handful of lines, but the story, background and motivations are very clear. It’s clean storytelling with no extras. Here’s what you need to know, the movie seems to say, cue the mayhem.
Like its main character, “John Wick” is a blunt, über macho instrument. Wick is so tough he doesn’t bother to take off his blood-soaked shirt when he starts his quest for vengeance and the movie is just as uncompromising.