Keanu Reeves is not back in his element!
Film Review © 2014 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski. Screenplay by Derek Kolstad. Produced by Basil Iwanyk, David Leitch, Eva Longoria, Chad Stahelski, and Mike Witherill. Executive produced by Kevin Scott Frakes, Stephen Hamel, Tara Moross, Keanu Reeves, Andrew C. Robinson, Raj Brinder Singh, Jared Underwood, and Mike Upton.
Starring: Keanu Reeves (as elite assassin, John Wick), Michael Nyqvist (as Russian crime boss, Viggo Tarasov), Alfie Allen (as son of Russiona crime boss Viggo Tarasov, Iosef Taraxov), Willem Dafoe (as Wick's assassin colleague and friend, Marcus), Dean Winters (as Avi), Adrianne Palicki (as assassin, Ms. Perkins), John Leguizamo (as Aureilo), Ian McShane (as Winston), Lance Reddick (as manager of the assassin's hotel, Charon), Clarke Peters (as assassin, Harry), Kevin Nash (as bodyguard, Francis), and a host of others.
Although retired but still fully capable and lethal, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is supposed to be the best of the best, an elite master assassin. So, why was he constantly getting his ass kicked in this film? Why?
The story? Master assassin John Wick retired after falling in love and getting married. A few years after getting married his wife dies from cancer. Within a day or so of his wife's death, a mourning Wick receives a present from his wife, a cute puppy and they become pals. A few days later, Wick stops to put gas in his car and some Russian miscreants try to provoke Wick into selling his classic Mustang, but Wick politely says, "No, thank you." These miscreants eventually discover where Wick lives, they beat him, and kill his dog. Ironically, the miscreant that killed Wick's dog and stole his car is also the son of the Russian mob boss Wick used to work for. Now we have a revenge flick with a family connection.
Wick is a member of a group of assassins, and they live by a highly defined set of rules, "principles of conduct" that must not be violated or risk severe consequences, including death. As expected, the assassins violate their own rules. Here again we have a very talented cast actors as assassins, including Clarke Peters, Ian McShane, and especially Willem Dafoe (who's character should have received more screen time), but a script that just didn't deliver. Given the very "public" persona these assassins reek, scipt completely ignored how law enforcement would respond to and manage such activity, which was a ridiculous omission. Even clumsy and buffoonish Inspector Jacques Clouseau from "The Pink Panther (1963)" would have noticed the destruction and death caused by these assasins. Scripted clearly ignored the existence of "911."
This film has many flaws, but here are the top three: (1) Wick is constantly getting his ass kicked; (2) cartoonish violence provided simply for the sake of violence that uselessly goes on and on and on; and (3) poorly conceived, constructed and executed action sequences and fighting scences - if you want to see better assassin-oriented violence, go rent/buy "Kill Bill, Volume 1 (2003) and Volume 2 (2004). Plus, at film's end Wick gets another dog, but given his great love for his wife, Wick would not get a different breed than the dog his wife gave him - unless, of course, Wick is no longer mourning his wife's death and he's moved on; which is exactly how you'll feel at film's end - ready to move on.
Tag-team direction by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski is adequate, but by-the-numbers. Film editing by Elisabet Ronaldsdóttir could have been sharper to eliminate some of the useless action. Film is 101 minutes, but should be trimmed to 43 minutes to allow 17 minutes of commercials as a "special broadcast" or pilot for commercial television.
Recommendation: If you want to see Keanu Reeves in better command of his fighting skills go rent/buy "Man of Tai Chi," which Reeves also directed. If you like exciting films involving a league of highly trained assassins, go rent/buy: "Assassins (1995)" starring Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, and Julianne Moore; "The Mechanic (1972)" starring Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent; and Kill Bill, Volume 1 (2003) and Volume 2 (2004) starring Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Michael Madsen and a host of others. Oh, and if you really, really want to see "John Wick," well, wait for it . . . wait for it . . . at the $5.00 bin at Walmart.