Keanu Reeves stars as ex assassin in new film John Wick
by Bob Thompson
Keanu Reeves likes to call himself a journeyman but he’s displayed a great deal of creative technique during his 30-year career.
At 50, Reeves continues to take chances, underscored by last year’s directorial debut Man of Tai Chi, which was filmed in the always unpredictable China.
The action flick John Wick is his movie trip into headlining audacity. And while the genre might be more familiar, the starring role turned out to be demanding.
His motto served him well: Whatever it takes.
“I call it work on working,” said Reeves, promoting John Wick recently in his hometown of Toronto.
“Sometimes it’s tough, but what else am I going to do but roll up my sleeves? It’s (career) ebb and flow but I am glad to still be here.”
Certainly, the John Wick title character signals a return to form for Reeves. He portrays a former assassin who comes out of retirement to seek nasty revenge on powerful Russian mobsters based in New York.
The film is a graphic fable co-directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, who handled most of the stylized fight work in the Matrix series.
John Wick is more earthbound in its combat, suggested Reeves, yet nearly as fantastical in its presentation. The dressed-in-black and bearded Reeves offered some other considered opinions:
On getting hooked by the original John Wick script by Derek Kolstad:
“I saw this real world, and then this underworld idea, and all these interesting characters who have codes,” Reeves said. “It drew me in, and I liked the humour of it, too.”
On reuniting with his Matrix buddies:
“They knew me and I knew them, so we had shorthand to begin with,” Reeves said. “And I knew that they had this ambition to do longer takes, and I also knew what it would require.”
On preparing for those longer takes:
“I definitely went to a John Wick boot camp,” noted the actor, referring to weeks of sessions involving martial arts and stunt driving.
“There was judo and ju-jitsu, and the gun work, and they wanted me to learn how to drive a car so I could do the spinning and drifting. I call it car-foo.”
On the benefits of doing most of the John Wick stunts:
“The directors wanted these long takes where you could see it all happening to me,” Reeves said. “I had to have all the techniques so it could look like I was right there.”
On one of his favourite John Wick scenes:
“I really love the moment when he sees the letter from his wife who has passed. You see how this mythical assassin reacts and the quality of the guy.”
On taking a chance with first-time directors:
“I’ve tried to do that throughout my career,” he said. “It’s easy to do when you believe in the vision.”
On previous positive results with first-time directors:
“It happened with Kathryn Bigelow in Point Break and Jan de Bont on Speed and the Wachowskis with The Matrix trilogy (although they had done a film before called Bound), and Francis Lawrence with his first film, Constantine.”
On developing a TV series based on Barry Eisler’s Rain crime novels:
“I have done it with movies but never with TV,” said Reeves, who is set to play the U.S.-Japanese hit man from Rain. “It’s in the early stages and it continues to be a learning experience.”