In the latest straight-to-DVD action movie to somehow wind up in cinemas, Keanu Reeves plays John Wick – a retired hitman with a classic car, a cute puppy and a dead wife. But when bad guys kill his dog, John seeks revenge in a furious spree (killing, not shopping – though the question “why doesn’t he just buy another puppy?” is never answered).
The premise is so glaringly flimsy it must be a joke, but the execution is entirely humourless – thanks largely to Keanu Reeves, whose expressionless performance looks like an audition to be one of those guards you get at Buckingham Palace. He does look great in a suit, especially considering he’s 50 (?!), but he still can’t act. Unless the category is “stoner realness.”
Before you can say The Drop or Equilibrium, Wick’s dealing out bloody vengeance in the great cinematic tradition of badasses called John. Except he’s not called John; as Peter Bradshaw points out, characters keep calling him Jonathan, which would make him Jon Wick. And if the filmmakers can’t even apply the most basic thought to the title, it leaves little hope for the rest of the film.
If Jo(h)n Wick is so notorious, why hasn’t Alfie Allen heard of him? How come Michael Nyqvist can match him in a fight when hundreds of tough guys are so easily dispatched? What’s Willem Dafoe doing in this piece of trash? Isn’t that Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock? Why does Wick decide to lie low in a hotel full of hitmen? The Hitman Hilton, if you will.
It’s not surprising to learn that the directors, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, are stunt coordinators – Stahelski was Keanu Reeves’ body double in The Matrix. And the action sequences are certainly the film’s strongest aspect, even though they’re still completely boring.
For reasons best described as “utterly baffling”, the film has been overwhelmingly well-received and scores a bizarre 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. But don’t believe the hype; John Wick is as stupid, dull and forgettable as the semi-annual Liam Neeson shoot-em-up.
To see this type of revenge film done properly, check out last year’s The Equalizer. This has none of that film’s memorable characters, tension or fun – and Keanu Reeves is no Denzel Washington. The set-up is laughable, the central character tedious, and the whole thing feels about 15 minutes long. Needless to say, the sequel is in early development. Maybe this time they’ll kill his goldfish.