Action fans who have missed Keanu Reeves since he was an ass-kicking savior in “Constantine,” “The Matrix” and “Speed” should check screening times at the nearest theater for “John Wick,” if they haven’t already.
The movie about a hitman issuing bloody revenge over the death of his dog is wowing critics, who are mostly uniform in praising Reeves’ performance, as well as the high-octane action that reminded them of better days for the genre being steadily replaced by comic book adaptations.
“Wick,” which was co-directed by Reeves’ “Matrix” stuntman Chad Stahelski and fellow stuntman David Leitch, is rocking an 86 percent “fresh” approval rating from 80 reviews counted on Rotten Tomatoes. “The Matrix” garnered an 87 percent approval rating, so this appears to be an impressive return to old form for the 50-year-old actor.
Yes, look at the picture of Reeves (above) and let that sink in for a moment. He’s 50.
TheWrap‘s James Rocchi was among the critics who were enamored with what may go down in history as the year’s best action thriller.
“Taking a paper-thin premise and delivering it with cold-rolled steel execution, ‘John Wick’ isn’t perfect, but that’s very much part of its pleasures,” Rocchi wrote in his review. “Both ludicrous and ludicrously entertaining, ‘John Wick’s’ stylish look, B-movie vibe and less-is-more, longer-takes-are-stronger-takes approach to action make it a standout.”
Los Angeles Times critic Robert Abele offered similar praise.
“As weaponized mayhem of the most disreputably electrifying kind, the sleek and eccentric revenge tale ‘John Wick’ jabs far above its weight class thanks to the panther physicality of 50-year-old headliner Keanu Reeves and a tightly-pitched mix of humor and expertly choreographed hyper-violence from writer Derek Kolstad and first-time director Chad Stahelski,” Abele wrote. “It’s a B movie made with A-student love for the relentless thrill of bodies in brutal motion.”
Philadelphia Inquirer critic David Hiltbrand didn’t lend the same compliments to Reeves, who he called “unconvincing as a predator,” but found the viewing experience to be “a blast.”
“This movie may have the highest BPM (bullets per minute) index of any film ever made. Director Chad Stahelski handles the frenzied fusillade with flair. The action scenes in ‘John Wick,’ while brutal, are also rather breathtaking,” Hiltbrand wrote. “The supporting cast is surprisingly good … Only the two leads disappoint.”
It’s not just a guy thing, either. New York Times critic Jeannette Catsoulis was thoroughly impressed by the stylized assault Reeves dishes out on a New York City mob boss.
“Brilliant in its simplicity, the setup of ‘John Wick,’ like the rest of the movie, passes swiftly and efficiently. Harboring few ambitions beyond knock-your-socks-off action sequences, this crafty revenge thriller delivers with so much style — and even some wit — that the lack of substance takes longer than it should to become problematic,” Catsoulis wrote. “Until then, we’re content to tag along as John, revealed as the ne plus ultra of former assassins, comes out of retirement and into the cross hairs.”
Detroit News critic Tom Long was among those turned off the movie’s endless parade of violence, but still recommended it for those looking for just that.
“Keanu Reeves shoots some people in ‘John Wick.’ Then he shoots some more people. Then he shoots some more. Yes, he, on occasion, punches someone a few times before shooting them, and the violence is garnished with sporadic knifeplay. But mostly it’s Keanu playing bang-bang,” Long wrote. “If that sounds great, go see the movie. If not, congratulations on aspiring to better things.”