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‘John Wick:’ I’m Thinking Keanu’s Back

Keanu Reeves is John Wick, a retired super-killer whose name evokes dread and the resignation to certain death if one gets on his bad side. He’s out of the business, having found love in a beautiful wife. And he enjoys life “on the other side” except for that his darling wife gets sick and dies, as wives of tortured, violent ex-hitman are wont to do. What she does, after her death, is send him a puppy to cope, a baby beagle named Daisy who grants him immediate relief and purpose and awwwww.

But a mob of stupid, Russian gangsters show up at his house, beat John to a pulp and KILL THE DOG in order to steal his car. Killing a dog in a movie is a forbidden act, just the worst thing you can do…unless it’s followed by a swift 90 minutes of unrelenting, violent revenge. And that’s the beauty of John Wick. At the risk of perpetuating gender stereotypes, this is an action movie premise I can get behind one hundred percent. If someone killed the puppy my dead wife gave me, you better believe I’d chase them throughout New York City massacring anyone who stood in my path.

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It’s a self-aware action flick — it’s funny, its heightened clichés mock itself (there’s an inspired scene with a cop, the versatile Tom Sadoski of The Newsroom), and the action is fucking awesome. John Wick is the best in the business, so he takes out guys like it’s his job (because it was once). There’s a method to his madness. He whacks dudes with a sense of rhythm; he is true killing machine. When approached by two men, he shoots and disables the first, turns and disables the second, turns back with a kill shot to the first, then finishes the job. He’s a consummate professional, but the action, while systematic, never gets boring. It’s relentless and brutal and totally great.

The filmmakers throw you into the underground, organized crime world, with minimal explanation, which is just the right amount. We’re not confused, but we’re not bombarded with exposition. The filmmakers know we are not there for the convoluted the logic. We’re there for the face-smashing.

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On top of Keanu, who kills it with his signature stoicism and gravelly, moan-y delivery, there’s Willem Dafoe, Alfie Allen, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, and Ian McShane. The top dog Russian villain, the father of the punk who stole Wick’s car (Allen), is Michael Nyqvist. Most of his lines engulf him. I came out of the movie wishing his part was played by Christoph Waltz. He had his moments, but most of his moments had him. Other than that, I would venture to say John Wick is a nearly flawless action movie.

And like, Keanu’s back now, so let’s hear it for Bill and Ted the third.

Grade: A-

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