SUITED FOR THE PART: Reeves brings the heat to his portrayal of a man on a mission.
For generations the silver screen has provided fertile ground for stories centred on roguish antiheroes, some more successful than others. With Denzel Washington bringing the heat in The Equalizer and Idris Elba recently raising cain in No Good Deed — to name only a few — it's shaping up to be yet another season for these silent, dangerous types blazing an inferno at the movies. Now comes Keanu Reeves in John Wick, an explosive action thriller that finds the veteran leading man in terrifically fine form after such a lengthy self-imposed hiatus from acting roles.
Very much like Washington's character in The Equalizer, Reeves' Wick is an unstoppable killing machine (in the most euphemistic sense) who gets lured out of "retirement" by unforeseen circumstances brought about by unwelcome guests.
After grappling with fresh grief over the death of his wife, Wick is finding solace and a sense of companionship in the small dog she left him, gradually inching his way back to normalcy. Then, out of the blue, things take a sour turn. When he refuses to sell his Mustang to a bratty wannabe thug, the kid and his cronies break into Wick's place, beat him to a pulp and savagely kills the dog. Needless to say, Wick's fury sky-rockets. Bad news for everyone. Turns out Wick is a former associate of the boy's mobster father, who puts out a hit on Wick to safeguard his assets. And that's when things get really interesting, as Wick morphs into his ruthless old self and embarks on a bloody rampage to settle the score.
Reeves has played the vengeful soul on a mission before (see The Matrix trilogy etc.), but in John Wick he not only gets the under the skin of a complex and aggrieved man forced to reconfront his inner darkness in the pursuit of wrongdoers — he winds up proving to his loyalists and detractors alike that his capacity for compelling, captivating turns is still very much intact.
However, the film as directed by Chad Stahelski, with a script by Derek Kolstad and appearances by Ian McShane and Willem Dafoe, yields mixed fortunes, largely favouring the fast-and-loose shot-em-up style over coherence and logic. But in all fairness it's no letdown, thanks in large part to Reeves' magnetic portrayal. Moulding the character with nuance, intensity and steely determination, he makes John Wick into a modern punisher we can believe in. Tyrone's Verdict: B