Tag Archives: Keanu Reeves

Review – JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2

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Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane.
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Cert: 16 Running Time: 122 mins
Release Date: 17th February 2017

It is a treat sometimes to return to the familiar, to take another adventure with John McClane, James Bond, Jason Bourne – an action outing led by a character so well defined both in motive and ability, that we sit down happily to enjoy another outing. In 2014 with the release of John Wick, another action icon was born. The success of the film with critics and audiences screamed for another instalment and so at last John Wick has returned.

There’s a reason the first film was so seminal. It marked the return to form of Keanu Reeves in a tailor made role, the kind so physically demanding as to require the laser precision prep Reeves is famous for. It was a simple revenge story but it was weaved into a rich tapestry of a world of killers and their code. And it was directed with style and fervour by former stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski, bringing us bone crunching action in a world almost as cool as John Wick’s suits. There was also the matter of his car, the 1969 Boss Mustang – an echo of its driver’s prowess –  balletic in performance and relentless in its pursuit.

Chapter 2 offers up everything a sequel should. More of what made the first so great but with extra helpings on top. What it also has, is a cracking story – a legitimate reason for Wick to hit the streets again and returning writer Derek Kolstad has given John a stormer to play this time round. When an old colleague Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio), the one who helped him get out of the business years before, calls in a marker, he finds himself in Rome for a hit that will open up a whole new world of trouble and put a price on his head. Pursued by his peers, one of them Cassius (played by Common) seeks his own revenge on a professional grudge and so we are treated to a number of incredible action set pieces as John does what he does best.

The combat is relentless. Measured and precise, you can see every punch, kick and gunshot, all to the frenetic beating soundtrack so effective in the first. Bullets fly, knives stab, Wick kills over and over in a body count sure to top the last film. Stahelski knows his way around the action for sure but he also knows how to set the tone for the piece and bring Kolstad’s script to life. There is unexpected darkness that rises above the carnage and also humour, used sparingly but to good effect as John is asked in Rome if he’s “here for the Pope”. The setting itself is entirely appropriate given the religious iconography that dominates the John Wick universe.

He himself is described as “old testament” and “the devil’s emissary” with Wick returning to his vocation, a celibate man in black. There is a reverence, a church like calm to the safe haven of the ‘Continental’ hotel whose Rome branch is no less welcoming to the killer elite. The production design is a blend of gothic and modern, beautifully realised from the rooftops of New York and Rome to the subterranean tunnels below them. The subway scene is a blast of light and colour, while the catacombs of Rome are lit sometimes only by gun flare.

Blue eyed Scamarcio, brings a Shakespearean cool while Ruby Rose commits to a mute role while letting her hands do the talking. An appearance by Laurence Fishburne works beautifully and bristles with nostalgia and Peter Stomare too is great as a mobster listening to the carnage wrought by the devil as Wick annihilates his best men. As John prepares himself for Rome, his business of purchasing guns, body armour and intel are brilliantly done with a great cameo from Peter Serafinowicz as the Sommelier of firepower.

This is no dime a dozen rehash. Great thought and execution has gone into John Wick’s return. They are world building with every film and I for one can’t wait for the third instalment.

5/5

 

Review – JOHN WICK

 

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Starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki
Directed by Chad Stahleski
Cert: 16, Running Time 101 minutes
Release Date (Ireland) : April 10th 2015

There’s a scene in John Wick in which Keanu Reeves’ character, a retired assassin is asked if he’s back.

“People keep asking if I’m back and I haven’t really had an answer – but yeah – I’m thinking I’m back.”

Keanu Reeves comeback was declared when John Wick performed over the odds at the US box office last October. A slick revenge thriller, it certainly put Reeves back in the spotlight after last year’s disappointing opening of the CGI heavy 47 Ronin.

John Wick tells the tale of a former hitman who has turned his back on his trade to settle down with the woman he loves. But when she dies due to illness he is left alone until a package arrives at his front door in the shape of a puppy his wife had organised for him before her death. The dog (undeniably cute) gives solace to John in his loneliness and grief and just when we think he may be okay after all, car thieves, led by Russian mobster Iosef (played by Games of Thrones Alfie Allen) break into his house. Catching him off guard they beat him up, kill his dear puppy and leave with his 1969 Boss Mustang car.

When word spreads in the criminal underworld that Iosef stole John Wick’s car a wave of fear spreads and those in the higher echelons know that he’ll be coming for him. Iosef, uneducated in the mythical status of Wick’s assassin, is full of bravado as his father, mob boss Viggo (played by Michael Nyqvist) explains that John is the man you send to kill the bogeyman and he never misses.

As John hunts Iosef and his henchmen through a heavily stylised New York City, Viggo places a huge bounty on John’s head in an effort to save his son.

The double act of director Chad Stahleski and producer David Leitch, two former stunt men who run a very successful stunt choreography outfit in Hollywood, (Stahleski doubled for Reeves on the Matrix Trilogy) have a terrific eye for action and the set pieces, particularly the one in the Red Circle nightclub is reminiscent of the lobby scene in The Matrix for its action and fresh styling. Fast-paced and punchy the camera never loses focus of its star and rather than jumping around a scene it allows the actors to do their thing and show off which they do very well.

Reeves is on top form, slim and well trained in close combat using jujitsu moves to take down and crush his enemies. He’s as good with a gun as he is with his hands and is a killing machine, dispatching his enemies with ease. As he showed with his directorial debut, the flawed but nonetheless entertaining Man of Tai Chi, Reeves likes his martial arts and here he brings a cool effortless physicality to John Wick’s hitman.

Action films, while ten-a-penny are rarely as enjoyable or entertaining as this and with strong support from a cast including Willem Dafoe, as a fellow hitman, Ian McShane as the owner of The Continental, a hotel that offers a neutral safe haven in criminal circles – it succeeds in pushing the genre and taking risks that pay off.

With a pumping soundtrack, the film is visually stunning, and while set up on a rather cheesy premise, it’s utterly believable.

Reeves does 90% of his own stunts including some very fast and furious driving so there’s plenty here to keep action fans happy and at 101 minutes it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.

****