We at THN collectively love Keanu Reeves and have been immensely excited about his return this year in JOHN WICK. THN have been lucky enough to have already seen it and we can tell you that it is all kinds of awesome. Our review is finally live so why not have a butcher’s at it once you’ve finished this feature.
JOHN WICK was so brilliant that it has awoken my long-forgotten admiration for Mr Reeves and compelled me to revisit his extensive back catalogue immediately. The man has made some brilliant movies over the years as well as the odd turkey. The interesting thing about a Keanu Reeves turkey though is that somehow you still enjoy it. For example, JOHNNY MENMONIC and CHAIN REACTION are some of the silliest films – MNEMONIC has a mind-reading dolphin for Pete’s sake – and yet we’re still completely charmed by Reeves and his old Ted persona.
For the last five Fridays I’ve been taking a weekly look at a different Keanu classic. The series has delved into the world of THE MATRIX, BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, POINT BREAK and SPEED. Now the series reaches its conclusion with the newest edition to the Keanu Classic Hall of Fame with JOHN WICK.
I’ve been going on about this film for weeks now and finally it’s time to talk about JOHN WICK. The purpose of this series has of course been to celebrate the wonderful work that Reeves has done but there is a reason that it’s been a while since we last saw the action star. His last big budget film was 47 RONIN, a film released during the festive season in 2013 – sadly it failed to set the box office alight and many thought that that was the end of Reeves. Those people however weren’t counting on the success of JOHN WICK.
The film sees Reeves play John Wick, a former hitman who retired at the height of his career so that he could be with the woman he loved. Sadly after only a few years together his wife dies and John is left devastated. Not wanting him to be alone, his wife arranges for a gift to be delivered posthumously to help him cling to his humanity. Unfortunately local thug and son of John’s former mob boss doesn’t realise any of this and attacks John at home, taking the last remaining thing that means anything to him. Cue John coming out of retirement and a lot of scared mob men.
The role of Wick is the perfect comeback character for the former action star. JOHN WICK is full of action, stunts and mind-blowing fight sequences, but it is the parallels between Wick and Reeves’ career that really helps sell it. Wick has been out of the picture for many years, so many in fact that some of the younger criminals have never heard of him and aren’t afraid. This is echoed in our world in the way that many younger cinema-goers might not know who Reeves is and what he is capable of. The role also oozes cool, which as we now know from studying his back catalogue is something that drips from Keanu’s every pore. I’m also drawing a blank to a man that pulls off a suit better than Mr Reeves.
Reeves’ commitment to JOHN WICK was never-ending. Again, as with past films he insisted on performing a good 90% of his own stunt work. There is a brilliant and brutal smack-down set within a nightclub that is one of the film’s cornerstone action pieces. It almost went horribly wrong however, as the day they shot the sequence Keanu had the flu. Unlike most he didn’t succumb to the dreaded (man) flu and instead powered through with a high fever and committed the long fight sequence to memory that very day.
So passionate about his new character was Reeves that he inadvertently got the name of the movie changed. Once signed onto the project he couldn’t contain his excitement and was telling everybody that he was in a new film about someone called John Wick. The original name of the film was Scorn, but through the word of Reeves’ mouth everyone started thinking of it as JOHN WICK and eventually the name stuck.
When released in America the film took some big money compared to its modest budget of $20 million. Furthermore it actually got a fairly positive response from the critics across the board, something that a film of this ilk in today’s climate struggles to do. It performed so well that there is talk of a sequel already being in development with original writer Derek Kolstad and co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch back in charge of the reins. There is even chatter that JOHN WICK has been planned for a trilogy, much like the Liam Neeson TAKEN franchise.
Although only released recently you can already find the character of John Wick in another medium. Just days before the release of video game Payday 2, a digital version of Keanu’s assassin was added to the rosta as a hidden, unlockable character.
It’s been a while (2012’s LOOPER to be exact) since a film affected me the way that JOHN WICK did. Granted, the plot is your typical revenge movie plot and might not win any originality awards but JOHN WICK has been executed so well and is so stylish that that doesn’t matter. With JOHN WICK Stahelski and Leitch have created a real-life motion graphic novel/anime that struck a chord with this action genre-loving lady. It is visually stunning, each scene lit with a different neon colour tinting everything, adding atmosphere. The score and soundtrack is pretty swish too and will inevitably get so stuck in your head you will feel the need to go out and buy it immediately. JOHN WICK also of course allowed me to reacquaint myself with Keanu Reeves, an actor who I have always respected and felt a certain amount of kinship too. Now begins the slow and agonising wait for JOHN WICK 2.
If you’ve missed any of the previous Keanu Classics you can find them all here.