Favorite

Keanu kills 

'Wick' better than expected.

click to enlarge 'JOHN WICK': Keanu Reeves stars.
  • 'JOHN WICK': Keanu Reeves stars.

Haters who rip Keanu Reeves for his wooden acting overlook the concomitant brilliance when he is cast as a tree. The title role in "John Wick" is uncommonly suited to his Botoxian stoicism. Wick, a retired gangland assassin, was so skilled at his job that when he told his then-boss, a powerful mobster name of Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), that he was leaving the life, bossman actually let him do so, pending Wick's completing something so stupendously impossible that he should've died. He didn't, and Viggo let him go out to pasture, to get married and lie low in Jersey.

Instead, and there had to be an instead, life intervened. The wife, she died. As Wick grapples with his grief, a couple of lowlifes steal his car and kill his dog. You can fairly presume these lowlifes won't have long lives. Except, oops, one of them (Alfie Allen, Theon Greyjoy of "Game of Thrones") happens to be Viggo's kid. Viggo knows enough about Wick, upon learning what happened, to essentially launch a preemptive gang war against his former employee. The results are what you might call mixed, at best.

These are the flour, eggs and milk of your run-of-the-mill noir revenge flick. Going beyond the basics, first-time directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, both stuntmen with resumes as long as an IV drip line, swirl in heaping doses of slick weirdness without letting flash overwhelm substance. For instance: The fact that Wick's reputation precedes him so that no one with any sense wants any part of him whatsoever adds a glint of realism to what could otherwise become a cartoon. The fight sequences are heavy on the gunplay but move at a pace and rhythm befitting a Jackie Chan movie, or perhaps a round of "Splinter Cell" on Xbox. The violence is brutal, unyielding, and yet stops just shy of hyperbolic. Small touches in Wick's style (finishing his adversaries with two shots to the head — the double-tap — stands out) make this guy feel different from the homicidal dervishes we've cheered in movies past.

Deeper into this world, too, we find deadpan, surrealistic flourishes that bring buoyancy to the grimness. Adrianne Palicki, Ian McShane, Willem Dafoe and Lance Reddick appear as players in a sort of hitman subculture with its own rules and norms. The humor here is arch but subtle, with a touch of a modern sci-fi cool to the lingo and the currency (a single gold coin for seemingly every transaction). The hotel where Wick holes up for a while, the Continental, could earn its own network spin-off series, as a hive of assassins where business cannot be conducted on the premises (i.e., no murdering allowed) but where its house doctor will come stitch up your knife wounds and advise you on how to keep fighting when they inevitably rip. Because work calls.

It all amounts to dark fun served cold. The secret weapon here is Nyqvist, the crime boss who is thoroughly unsurprised, to the point of casual resignation, that Wick is picking apart his empire, man by man, corpse by corpse. Meanwhile, for his part, Reeves doesn't have to strike too many notes. He is no viola. At best, he is a timpani, in command of a truncated scale. Anger, he has down pat. Homicidal rage, that's also pretty convincing. The smiling, he leaves for other people.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Sam Eifling

Readers also liked…

  • Not much to 'Love'

    In Judd Apatow's new Netflix original series.
    • Feb 25, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated itsĀ 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Latest in Movie Reviews

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: On "Beyond Scared Straight"

    • I need to find a scared straight program for my 14 yr old daughter here…

    • on July 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation