Are we experiencing a Keanu renaissance?
I have yet to see Man of Tai Chi, but between 47 Ronin and John Wick, I’ve been having a ball watch Reeves get his groove back. I wouldn’t argue that Ronin or Wick are great movies, but both are solid and Reeves is in his element.
Reeves isn’t an emoter. He can’t let it all hang out like Al Pacino or Nicholas Cage. It’s not how he works. He’s best reeled in, like Takeshi Kitano. One of Kitano’s finest works, Fireworks, is such because of how he limits his emotions externally. His character, Yoshitaka, has nothing left to give emotionally, spent after dealing with his wife’s poor health and problems on the job. He becomes nothing but action, his every movement in the now, his every thought about just handling the task before him. Reeves’ Wick is very similar, the death of his wife having sucked everything out of him. After Russian thugs, led by Isoef Tarasov (Alfie Allen of Game of Thrones), steal Wick’s badass Mustang, kill his dog and beat him senseless, Reeves doesn’t weep, scream, fall apart. There is nothing left for him but action, closure. And for the man known as “The Boogeyman” – not because he is the Boogeyman, but because he’s the man you send “to kill the Boogeyman” – that means blood, death and revenge.
It’s one of John Wick‘s greatest strengths, that clarity. When Wick finally fights his way through the Russian mob to get to Iosef, there is no long-winded diatribe, no confessions, no torture. Wick came to kill Iosef, so he does, quickly and without thought. Iosef is not worthy of Wick’s grief. He is a dangerous, vile pest to be crushed and tossed out with the trash.
Had it ended there, John Wick is a top-grade action flick. The humor related to the return/non-return of Wick to the hired killer game is dry and hilarious. The various players we meet all add something interesting to the mix, with solid performance by Wilhem DaFoe and Adrianne Palicki. Wick is also, as far as I know, is the only practitioner of gun-fu I’ve ever seen. Wick – in contrast to our old pal Neo – isn’t a great hand-to-hand fighter. But he’s a frigging Picasso with a firearm. So he’ll engage in some fisticuffs, but only to slow the attack, change the angle so that he can finish bad dudes with a gunshot to the head. Lots and lots of gunshots to heads. It’s a unique fighting style, one of the best features of Wick.
Unfortunately, John Wick didn’t end there. The final act gets dragged out, a few loose ends are dealt with unsurprisingly and Iosef’s gang leader father gets deeper into the mix until his anti-climactic final fist fight with our hero.
Don’t take this as a lack of endorsement of the entire film. If you’re an action fan, I’d recommend it. And if you heart Keanu, it’s well worth the time.