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ADVANCE: John Wick - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
ADVANCE: John Wick
Directing: B
Acting: B
Writing: C+
Cinematography: A-
Editing: B+

There's a great scene, one of few, in John Wick when a crime boss is paying a hired assassin a visit, and sniffs at an offered glass of fresh blended vegetable juice. The crime boss's expression after sniffing the glass is subtle but priceless, and he sets the glass down without taking a drink. It's the kind of understated yet fun humor the movie could have used a hell of a lot more of.

In fact, John Wick is a lot gloomier than it needs to be. Isn't this movie supposed to be fun? For what feels like the first fifteen minutes, there is no action at all, but establishing scenes showing us how depressed the title character, played with characteristic stoicism by Keanu Reeves, is seriously depressed by the death of his beloved wife. This is the kind of movie that reminds us that in Hollywood, every funeral is accompanied by heavy rains and gigantic black umbrellas.

It turns out Wick used to be the best assassin who ever walked the earth, and he left the job for said wife -- who, in a final act of love for him, delivers a beagle puppy posthumously. In what universe does this happen? Oh right, this dumb universe.

A group of young criminals invades Wick's home, kicks the shit out of him, steals his car -- which apparently he loves nearly as much as he did his wife -- and kills his dog. This isn't a spoiler; it's the whole premise of the movie. Because only then does the movie get fun, and we get to see John Wick in action, employing every gun-related stunt ever seen in one movie. It's still dark and morose, but the action is beautifully choreographed and shot with unusual clarity for this kind of action (no disorienting editing here). This, indeed, is what will make John Wick worth seeing for millions of people. They'll just have to wait a while before the fun actually starts.

I was a little mystified by Wick not fighting back in the initial attack against him. Maybe we're supposed to think he was still too depressed. But then, like any good action hero who will ultimately shoot countless people in the head, he sits down, has a good think, works himself up, and decides to sledgehammer his way through the concrete floor of his basement to his treasure of guns and gold coins. (He pays for everything in the movie with these gold coins, as though that's regular currency.)

The aforementioned crime boss Viggo Tarasov, played delightfully deadpan by Michael Nyqvist. He's the father of the petulant young man who led the group who initially attacked Wick -- Iosef Tarasov (Aflie Allen). Viggo knows his son is doomed, and still does what he can to protect him, putting out a contract on Wick and sending countless people who be slaughtered like idiot G.I. Joe villains.

Let's face it, the story here is preposterous, stupid, overdone and lacking in even a shred of originality. Will that stop you from enjoying it? Not if you're a fan of action movies. Sadly, John Wick is like a breath of fresh air compared to most action movies, in spite of its patent lack of substance. The key here is in the presentation of the action itself, which is what it's all about, rendering the story not only secondary but inconsequential. It's one thing to see a bunch of people get shot. It's another thing to see an absorbing ballet of gun violence that skillfully falls just short of being cartoonish.

Keanu Reeves is another assassin bent on revenge in JOHN WICK.

Overall: B

Opens Friday.
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