John Wick

In a recent interview Keanu Reeves told Indiewire it sucks that more studios haven’t been giving him job offers lately. Frankly, though, who could blame them? Reeves is still very much a Hollywood punch line (“Whoa.”), and his last couple of films (47 Ronin, Generation Um) haven’t exactly lit the world on fire. If anyone at any studio sees John Wick, however, that’s likely to change pretty quickly.

Marking the directorial debut of former stuntman Chad Stahelski (Reeves’ stunt double in the Matrix trilogy), John Wick is one of the coolest and most fun movies of the fall. While on the surface it’s not much more than a retread of the standard “Lone Wolf Hit-man” flick, its stylized feel and Reeves’ Zen-master performance set it apart from similar flicks, including Denzel Washington’s recent dud, The Equalizer.

Reeves is Wick, who, up until five years ago, was one of the most feared hit-men in the game. After falling in love and getting married, though, he quit—and is now living a quiet, isolated life (his wife just died from an undisclosed illness) with his souped-up Mustang and a cute little puppy his wife gave him posthumously. Enter a trio of Russian thugs, who steal Wick’s car (unaware of who he is) and kill his puppy in the process. And that’s all it takes to drag Wick back into the game for one last bloody spree.

I wish (merely out of curiosity) that I had kept track of the body count—it must approach 100, and each kill is more cooly executed (pardon the pun) than the last, culminating with a finale for the ages. In one early scene alone, Wick takes out a dozen thugs in the space of about 45 seconds. But John Wick isn’t just a mindless bloodbath. It’s expertly choreographed show and powered by Reeves’/Wick’s nonchalant charisma; he dispatches bad guys with all the effort it takes you to brush a piece of lint off your lapel.

Along with Reeves’ great work, the other star of the show is the script by Derek Kolstad (whose entire resume, until now, consisted of two Dolph Lundgren B-movies). Rarely clichéd and often surprisingly (intentionally) hilarious, it’s a screenplay that’s darn near perfect for the genre. From the “hit-man safe house” that masquerades as a swanky Manhattan hotel, to the priceless scene where a police officer visits Wick’s house following a failed hit, the film has a level of uber-dry wit that provides a welcome, added dimension.

According to his IMDb listing, Reeves has four movies currently in production. And if his work in John Wick is any indication, he may have finally found a way to not only get back on track but even be taken seriously as an actor. And if that’s not worthy of a “whoa”, I don’t know what is.

4/5 stars