Keanu Reeves is back in full fighting form in the hugely-anticipated action thriller “John Wick” that has already reached fever-pitch high at www.rottentomatoes.com generating a 100% score in their TomatoeMeter and with a 98% audience score.
Bruce Lee fans and big screen action experts Chad Stahelski and David Leitch who started as stunt doubles and coordinators in worldwide action blockbuster films such as “The Matrix” movies, “Constantine” (Stahelski doubling for Keanu Reeves) and further choreographed unforgettable action stunts in “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” “V for Vendetta,” “The Wolverine,” “300” and “Hunger Games,” Stahelski and Leitch debut as director/producer in Keanu Reeves’ bullet-filled and action-packed titular film “John Wick.”
“John Wick” stars World Stunt Award-winner Keanu Reeves as a retired killer-for-hire forced back into action by a brutal Russian mobster and hunts them down with the ruthlessness that made him a crime underworld legend. The movie is a stylish tale of revenge and redemption set in a brilliantly imagined New York City.
Derek Kolstad who penned “John Wick” describes Reeves’ character bearing a lot of contradictions and complications, a seemingly ordinary man who harbours extraordinary secrets. Kolstad found his inspiration in some of his favorite film-noir classics. “When I was a kid, I watched a lot of movies,” he explains. “My favorites always had a revenge motif. And I love the antihero. So I wanted to explore what would happen if the worst man in existence found salvation. Would it be true to his core? When the source of his salvation is ripped from him, what happens? Do the gates of Hades open?”
And so began the extraordinary journey of John Wick, the only man to ever walk away from a shadowy world of elite professional killers and survive, only to be sucked back in by fate. “John’s the kind of guy who walks into a room and has everything laid out in his mind like a chess game,” says Kolstad. “In the underworld, he’s a legend, and he’s been away long enough that the young up-and-comers have heard the name, but don’t necessarily believe all the stories.”
Reeves’ impeccable action pedigree, which includes the groundbreaking “Matrix” trilogy, two chapters of the blockbuster “Speed” franchise and the daredevil adventure “Point Break,” has justifiably earned him iconic status in the action world. Reeves signed on to headline John Wick, working closely with the writer to refine the story. “Basil and Peter Lawson of Thunder Road brought the script to me with the idea that I would be a part of such a great collaboration,” the actor says. “We all agreed on the potential of the project. I love the role, but you want the whole story, the whole ensemble to come to life.”
Kolstad says there was no “star temperament” working with Reeves. “What I really like about Keanu is that he’s a normal, laidback guy,” he says. “He’s incredibly bright and such a hard worker. We spent as much time developing the other characters as we did his. He recognizes that the strength of the storyline lies in even the smallest details.”
“It had gun fights, knife work, car chases and lots of hand-to-hand combat,” says Stahelski. “Dave and I talked about the potential to make a great graphic-novel-influenced action movie set in an almost mythical world. We pitched Keanu, Basil and the guys at Thunder Road the idea of John Wick as an urban legend, a thriller assassin movie with a realistic vibe and an otherworldly setting.” Reeves spent three months working with half a dozen 87Eleven (Leitch and Stahelski’s stunt company) to prepare to become the most dangerous assassin as John Wick, learning judo, Jiu jitsu, mastering firing and reloading an assortment of high-powered weapons.
Reeves was already confident the duo had the skill and creativity to stage John Wick’s groundbreaking action sequences better than anyone else. “Hearing Chad speak about the material and how he thought he could visually bring it to life was revelatory,” Reeves says. “He and Dave were interested in making each character unforgettable. They had given thought to the themes of the movie, the double life, the hyper-reality. They’ve been closely following the film since day one and trying to bring out all the emotion that is in this piece.”
As a filmmaking team, Stahelski and Leitch were the ideal choice for “John Wick,” according to Reeves. “Chad and Dave are experts in terms of this genre,” the actor notes. “The dialogue is hard-boiled but it’s also got the humor of graphic novels, the kind of amazingly original imagery and framing that we’ve come to associate with them. It’s a unique vision. I thought it was exciting and really cool to see all of these influences and experience and craft come together.”
“John Wick” explodes in theatres nationwide this October 29 (distributed by Pioneer Films).