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‘John Wick’ :The Reviews Are In

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Whoa.

That’s the reaction from the majority of critics who’ve seen “John Wick,” the new action movie hitting theaters this weekend starring “The Matrix” main man Keanu Reeves. On the surface, it looks like another mindless action movie; but “John Wick,” helmed by first-time director and longtime stunt man Chad Stahelski, stands at 85% on RottenTomatoes.com as of this writing, an incredibly impressive score.

 
So, why are critics so taken with “John Wick,” anyway? Read on for our round-up of reviews and find out:

The Story

“‘John Wick’ begins with a cool montage that almost apes the ‘sad Keanu’ meme. Our leading man, John Wick (who is almost always referred to by his full name – and why not, when it’s that cool?) is mourning the loss of his spouse in a modern suburban home that looks primed for a photo shoot in Dwell magazine. Before succumbing to disease, his wife organized the delivery of a puppy (cinema’s most adorable pet since almighty Uggie) to give him something to love as he tries to heal. When John Wick later runs afoul of some Russian gangsters who want to take his car, he tells them to buzz off in their native tongue. The thugs (led by ‘Game of Thrones’ Alfie Allen) invade his home late at night, give him a beat down, steal his wheels and kill the pooch. One phone call later John Wick lets everyone know that the demon is out of the bottle.” — Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian

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The Keanu

“Keanu Reeves is a great physical actor who really knows how to use his body onscreen however, giving Wick genuine elegance as he punches, kicks and shoots his way through the picture. And he’s totally nailed the walking in slow-motion thing. … This is Keanu Reeves’ movie, and he revels in the role of John Wick, a man of few words but pretty dramatic actions. The character could seem silly if played by another actor – particularly when he’s delivering a speech about that puppy – but Reeves commits to it so wholeheartedly that you have to take him seriously.” — Chris Tilly, IGN Movies

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The Supporting Cast

“Herding great actors into small roles, the director, Chad Stahelski (a seasoned stunt man directing for the first time), wisely capitalizes on their experience and skills: Willem Dafoe as John’s shady mentor; John Leguizamo as a chop-shop owner, bringing real subtlety to an all-too-brief scene; a formidable Ian McShane, parked in a gleaming bad-guy hotel like a menacing pasha; and the marvelous Michael Nyqvist, who plays the mob boss with more dignity and nuance than Derek Kolstad’s silly script deserves.” — Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times

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The Action

“Instead of the fast-cutting, shaky-cam mash-ups common today, Stahelski employs long, elaborately choreographed takes in which every move is clearly delineated — and credible in the moment. The shaky-cam approach may be necessary with actors who can’t stand up to close scrutiny as unstoppable killing machines, but 50-year-old Reeves (who performed his own martial arts stunts last year while directing ‘Man of Tai Chi’) is more than up to the challenge. He executes Wick’s murderous moves with lethal assurance, often taking out a dozen or more gangsters at a time with an exotic mix of aikido, judo and handgun-to-the-face, all delivered with flat-affect implacability that’s a perfect match for his persona.” — Bruce Ingram, The Chicago Sun-Times

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The Extremity

“Speaking against music-censorship legislation in 1984, infamous kook-rocker Frank Zappa commented that in their severity, the proposed laws were the equivalent of ‘treating dandruff by decapitation.’ The same can be said of John Wick’s tack on this-time-it’s-personal retribution.” — John Semley, The Globe and Mail

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The Final Word

“‘John Wick’ won’t redefine action movies, but it perfectly exemplifies what I want from an action film when I go. Have fun with the world, shoot the action well, motivate it in a way that doesn’t feel cheap. It’s amazing how little it takes to do it well, and how hard it seems to be for people to do it. ‘John Wick’ is the goods, though, and for action fans, you’re in for a treat.” — Drew McWeeny, HitFix.com

John Wick” is in theaters now.

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