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John Wick (IMAX)
Summit Entertainment // R // October 24, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
The majority of the American-made action films are based upon long-running franchise, video games, comic books, and figurines. When it comes to the major Hollywood studios, it's becoming increasingly difficult to discover an original feature that has been written directly for the screen. The ones that exist are often PG-13 rated flicks with cuts that are so fast, that we can't even see what's going on. This is no way to enjoy a proper action film. Writer Derek Kolstad and directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski understand this. With a relatively new screenplay writer and a pair making their directorial debut, John Wick feels so surprisingly realized. It's so self-aware, exciting, and violent, that you just can't help but applaud when the final credits begin rolling. And that's exactly what happened with a large majority of the crowd at the press screening.
An ex-hitman (Keanu Reeves) has finally started to build a new life from scratch. He has a wife, a house, and a bright future ahead of him. However, this is all ripped away when his wife passes away, and Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) and his band of goons steal this man's car and kill his dog. After losing the one piece that was left of his wife, he's ready to exact his revenge against the amateur and everybody who gets in his way. This man's name is John Wick.
Solstad doesn't waste any time, as he quickly introduces us to the world in which all of the violence is about to go down in. After John gets the dog, named Daisy, we quickly get attached to this man and the bond that he has with his pet. We know what is to come, and the audience dreads it from the moment that we see the dog's innocent face. This is truly a powerful set-up, as it manipulates our emotions in order to incite rage in both John, as well as the audience. Yet, we still aren't made entirely aware of what the protagonist is capable of, as others involved in crime are mortified by Iosef's actions towards a legend who is both highly respected and feared. The story might not be great, but as far as revenge tales go, John Wick manages to deliver something that makes the viewer feel something. It doesn't take very long to get the audience on his side, as we sympathize with the losses that he has endured within such a small period of time.
When the action starts, it proves to be relentless. John Wick continues to make his way through swarms of enemies. While he may be a dangerous ex-hitman, he's still human. We're reminded of this, as he doesn't always make it out of a fight unscathed. In fact, there are times in which he's the punching bag, allowing the film to not feel like a one-way slaughter. Otherwise, it would eliminate every ounce of tension out of the picture. Nevertheless, the action is still impossibly exciting, as the enemy sends in more powerful units with each wave, often containing the feeling that we're playing a video game. This is enforced by Kolstad's self-aware dialogue, which oozes with the cheesiness that action fans will be craving. It has a surprisingly good sense of humor that knows how ridiculous the film is becoming. John Wick is so successful due to the fact that it never takes itself too seriously. This is meant to be a popcorn flick, so why try to make it anything else?
The third act introduces an intriguing plot element that sets the scene for the remainder of the picture. In his pursuit of Iosef, John is forced to travel to a hotel that is used by other individuals in his profession, although the membership excludes any business being taken care of within the building. They offer a wide variety of services for these businessmen and women, offering a humorous and inventive aspect on what could have been a dreadfully generic flick. Unfortunately, this is where we're introduced to Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki). It's simply impossible to buy her as being part of this profession, making for a sub-plot that really pulls the audience out of the picture. Whenever it goes back to her, we're left practically begging for the film to return to John's story. Fortunately, the picture finds its way back on track. One of the smart decisions made by writer Derek Koltad is to utilize Iosef as a way to drive John towards someone else. While he's most certainly an antagonist, he isn't the threat that he must face, but rather a goal to eliminate.
The last few Keanu Reeves films were quite a letdown, but he has come back with a bang in the role of John Wick. The performance is a bit wooden, but he has his moments where he shines. Regardless, people won't be buying tickets to see an award-winning performance from Reeves, but rather to watch him kill large groups of people, and look good doing it. Well, that's exactly what you're going to get. Even so, the remainder of the casting proves to also be quite exciting. Michael Nyqvist is wonderfully evil as Viggo Tarasov, Iosef's father. He delivers quite a few laughs, especially in his reactions to John's vengeance. Alfie Allen has become quite good at irritating us on screen, and he has once again accomplished that as Iosef Tarasov. Meanwhile, other performances from those including Willem Dafoe and other special guest appearances are welcome. Adrianne Palicki is the weak link as Ms. Perkins, as she simply isn't convincing as an assassin.
Given the fact that directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski are primarily stunt coordinators, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that John Wick looks so wonderful. The fight choreography and staging are both exquisitely brutal. The best part of it is that they utilize a wide variety of long takes, so we can always see what's going on, allowing us to enjoy every second of the violence. The cinematography proves to be just as impressive, as the film employs a wonderful sense of atmosphere through its color palette. The blues in the graveyard to the purples in the nightclub truly allow this feature to thrive. Every bullet shot and explosion created are mixed brilliantly, creating quite the impact on the IMAX screen. John Wick provides what could quite possibly be considered one of the more impressive visuals seen in an action film in quite some time.
When fans of the action genre go to the cinema, this is what they want to see. It's violent, funny, and explosively entertaining. This is the most fun that I've had in the cinema since The Raid 2: Berandal. It's self-aware, and knows how to manipulate the audience in order to sympathize with its protagonist from act one. With that said, the film still has its issues, including the sub-plot of Ms. Perkins. Nevertheless, audiences who are searching for a wild ride of an action film will be incredibly satisfied. John Wick is wickedly exciting with a cool sense of style. Highly recommended!