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New Movie Review: Keanu Reeves is Cool in JOHN WICK

A rare film that brings back the old-fashioned excitement of going to the movies, JOHN WICK prompts gasps, cheers and even laughs. Part of the enjoyment comes from the self-referential humor in Reeves portraying someone who retreated to a simpler life but has now chosen to re-enter the world he’s known for - the one he was meant to be in. A former hit man, John Wick has retired from the assassin game and is focused on the life he’s made with his wife (Bridget Moynahan). When she dies of cancer, he is able to take comfort in an adorable dog she left for him to allay his grief.

One afternoon, he encounters a group of Russian gangsters led by Iosef (Alfie Allen), who want to buy his car - when John refuses - the men attack him and (in a horrifying moment) kill the dog. For the rest of the film, John beats, shoots and kills anyone who dare tamper with his plan to kill Iosef. While it’s certainly makes for some gruesome scenes - the film is filled with brilliantly choreographed fight sequences and establishes a style (in both its look and dialogue) all its own.

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JOHN WICK marks the directorial debut of David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, both of whom worked as fight and stunt coordinators for franchises like The Matrix and The Hunger Games films. The two also worked behind the scenes for Reeves’ underrated directorial debut Man of Tai Chi. The filmmakers have not only mastered how to craft compelling action sequences, they also know how to give what could have been a clichéd revenge tale a compelling narrative.

The bulk of the film’s strengths lie in the richly layored performances. Reeves seems to have found a balance between the heroes he’s played in high profile films like Point Break and Speed with his grittier turns in smaller fare such as The Devil’s Advocate and The Gift. The rest of the roles - even the smallest of them - are given life by an impressive ensemble that includes Willem Dafoe, Michael Nyqvist and John Leguizamo. Watch out for the likes of Dean Winters and Lance Reddick as minor but crucial characters who round out the eccentric world established in the film.

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