comscore Reeves boasts killer moves in slick 'John Wick' | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Reeves boasts killer moves in slick ‘John Wick’

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    Keanu Reeves brings back his elegant ferocity in “John Wick.”

There are some performers you just enjoy watching kick butt.

Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson, Gina Carano — they each bring an authenticity, even a meanness, to what they do that puts you in the moment with them. Then there’s Keanu Reeves.

Mr. "Matrix" is right at the top of that meat mountain, but with a style all his own. His dancelike precision is almost beautiful as he crushes someone’s windpipe, breaks his elbow and blows his brains out.

Reeves’ skills are on glorious display in "John Wick," an expertly made revenge drama in which he goes all headshot on lots and lots of bad guys, and it’s awesome.

The story is negligible, and sounds like a country song — his wife done died, they stole his truck (car in this case), they even killed the man’s dog. Unfortunately for them, it turns out he’s the biggest bad guy of them all, and here comes the boogeyman out of retirement to kill everybody.

The film’s not built on plot twists. But as with "Book of Life" or, heck, "Romeo and Juliet," it’s not where you’re going, but how you get there.

And getting there is fun in "John Wick."

Derek Kolstad’s script creates an underworld society with its own rules and currency, and finds humor in pithy directness. To lightly paraphrase:

"Why did you strike my son?"

"He stole John Wick’s car and killed his dog."


The cinematography by Jonathan Sela is rich and color-soaked. Kudos are due Sela, director Chad Stahelski and editor Elisabet Ronalds, who eschew extreme close-ups and machine-gun cutting to actually allow the audience to see what’s happening in the many lethal encounters.

Because if you’re in this audience, you came to See Keanu Kill.

Rated: R
* * *
Opens Friday

Stahelski and producer David Leitch are longtime stunt kingpins, and in their debut at the helm, they place the outstanding action dead center (fight coordination credited to Jonathan Eusebio, who worked on "The Wolverine" and "Haywire"). There are plenty of "Oh!"- and "Ouch!"-generating stunts.

Whether Reeves is executing headshots with mind-blowing accuracy or grappling foes into brutal arm bars, his moves are electric. And he looks great in his impeccably tailored suits, letting his fists, legs and bullets do the talking. He does have a few nice acting moments — the film’s rare emotional outbursts are quite effective.

There are performers besides Reeves (someone has to play the pre-dead bodies, after all), and the supporting cast is a good one. Michael Nyqvist ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") is the Russian godfather, Adrianne Palicki proves not all assassins are nice and Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy on "Game of Thrones") is quite good as the idiot thug who gets the ball rolling, but is in danger of being typecast as the guy you can’t wait to see die.

But as Wick works his way through the flunkies, all eyes are on the lead actor. More than a few oohs and aahs will accompany Reeves’ dynamic dance of death.

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