Viewed – 22 April 2015 Cinema
During the nineties I had a bit of an obsession with Hong Kong action movies, everything from Jackie Chan to the two-handed gun-play of John Woo. Hollywood quickly followed up on this and the action genre became infused with the influence of far eastern cinema, spawning the likes of Face / Off and The Matrix trilogy. There we come to Keanu Reeves, perhaps not the first person you may have thought of to deftly wield guns and kick ass considering he came from Bill & Ted, but this good looking and decidedly cool actor soon garnered a reputation as the go-to guy for such movies.
He’s been fairly quiet for a while so this come-back vehicle seemed perfectly suited. He plays the title character who following the death of his wife, lives out a peaceful existence with his sleek muscle car and pet dog. However an unfortunate brush with a Russian gang causes a break in at his house, his car getting stolen and his dog to get killed. Only thing is, the gang had no idea who they were messing with.
Perhaps an unintentional homage to classic movie franchise Death Wish albeit with ultra-stylish action that borrows (to an extent) from John Woo … this also feels like it’s own beast, and is carried well by Keanu on ice-cool form as a non-stop killing machine. I sometimes think he’d have made a great Terminator. Support comes in the shape of Willem Dafoe’s seasoned veteran as well as a sultry, sexy Adrianne Palicki. On villainous duties is Michael Nyqvist (Ghost Protocol, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) who proves a more than suitable if clichéd mobster. The set-up is simplistic and the characters slight and under-developed … but for this kind of movie where action is king, we get several stylish, well-edited and gripping encounters, all with a little tongue-in-cheek humour thrown in. I also loved the backdrop of the ‘agency’ that looked after Keanu and his kind (featuring a cameo by Ian McShane) … certainly an idea that could be further developed in sequels.
As the directing debut of former stunt co-coordinator Chad Stahelski, this shows promise for a new visionary in the action movie field. Roll on the already announced John Wick 2.
Verdict: 4 /5