Is Keanu catatonic or just cardboard here?

And Reeves isn’t even the biggest problem with John Wick.

John Wick Movie (640x426)

Keanu Reeves

John Wick is the debut film from director Chad Stahelski. You may not recognize that name, but he’s been around for a while, having spent the last 20 years working as a stunt man or a stunt coordinator. His credits include the Matrix trilogy, The Expendables and the Wolverine movies, to name a few. It’s not entirely surprising, then, that outside of its visuals and some very well-executed action sequences, John Wick misses the mark on pretty much every other aspect of filmmaking.

Keanu Reeves stars as the titular John Wick, a former professional hitman who’s apparently catatonic (that could actually just be Reeves’ trademark cardboard performance, though) after recently losing his wife to some unspecified disease. One day, a gang of Russian mobsters beat him up and steal his dope-ass 1969 Mustang. They also kill his puppy, in case you didn’t hate them enough already. One of the mobsters (played by Alfie Allen, who’s perfectly cast with his oh-so-punchable face) turns out to be the son of Reeves’s former employer, a crime-lord named Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). He explains that Wick is the most feared hitman he’s ever met. This is followed by another hour and 20 minutes of kung-fu fights and shootouts. Oh, and there’s also the vague theme of fate and destiny or something thrown in there.

It’s probably going to seem like I’m nitpicking when I say the movie has a garbage script and weak characters, seeing as this is an action movie and that’s not what they’re about. But making an action movie doesn’t give a filmmaker carte-blanche to ignore the basics of filmmaking. Instead of creating a character you want to root for (like John McClane from Die Hard), the director relies on cheap emotional manipulation in place of a decently written script and any kind of character development.

Another problem is that there’s simply just too much going on here — more than the script seems to be able to handle. A bunch of useless characters are introduced, and then all their useless stories have to be uselessly tied up, taking away valuable screen time that could be used on cool explosions and whatnot. With all this time spent on loose ends, the film ends on a couple unsatisfying car chases and shootouts that, with a little more time and effort, could have been a lot more interesting.

Ultimately, John Wick doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It features many of the common action movie tropes (brooding anti-hero, inexplicable explosions and an evil supervillain who employs an army of hapless henchmen who can’t fight or shoot a gun) and not much else. If you’re looking for a moderately fun action movie that you don’t have to think too hard about, then I’d recommend this. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your time. ■

John Wick opens in theatres today, Friday, Oct. 24