If someone were to tell me about 5 years ago that Keanu Reeves—that one actor who is always just there but never doing anything worthwhile—would be completely reinvented with an edgy action movie about an ex-hitman who gets back into the business to exact revenge for the death of his dog, I would have probably laughed in your face. Well, that’s exactly what happened with John Wick, a sleeper-hit that somehow manages to be both a rebirth for Reeves as well as one of the best action movies of the decade.
John Wick is ruthless; he can kill with skill and a lack of sympathy. After his wife dies, he receives a posthumous gift from her in the form of a dog, who he immediately bonds with. Their time is cut short by Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen), a unintelligent son of a mafia boss who does not quite know what he is messing with when he kills the dog. We are then propelled into an explosive, guns-blazing action flick that never fails to deliver its promise of violence while also remaining anchored within its story and thoughtfully realized world of assassins and gangsters.
Keanu Reeves is back with—dare I say—a literal vengeance. The years following The Matrix were not kind to Reeves as he starred in flop after flop, as well as the occasional independent film, but now his name has been restored, at least for me. He is unforgiving, but still likable in our eyes. We root for him on his path to revenge. He is a human who might seem invincible physically, but far from it emotionally. John Wick is the next big action hero.
The universe that John Wick takes place in is one that we have seen in some form or another in other movies like Wanted, where assassins are as commonplace as any other job. While at first you might chuckle at the thought of a hotel just for assassins, it somehow works and seems—for whatever reason—realistic within this universe. These scenes, which could be used for silliness, feel natural and darkly comic, especially when a wounded and bloodied Wick crosses the lobby and calmly asks for the doctor from an equally calm concierge.
Once the bullets start flying, the action proves phenomenal. Reeves moves through the multiple fight-scenes with a proper coolness—dealing fatal blows with his fists as well as a deadly arsenal of weapons. Other actors taking up arms include Willem Dafoe, Michael Nyqvist, and Dean Winters, who all bring the firepower with their acting, though not everyone of the supporting cast feels entirely welcome or developed.
Keanu Reeves is back and better than ever. With a sequel announced, John Wick and Reeves are here to stay. With fantastic action, a finely crafted world, and reincarnation of Reeves, John Wick will satisfy any action fans and remind us why we loved Reeves back during The Matrix.