- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A hitman known to even scare the boogeyman took revenge on those who dare harm his favorite furry friend in a 2014 action flick “John Wick.”

Now available in the Blu-ray format (from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, Rated: R, $39.99), the film offers Keanu Reeves as the angry title character and co-stars enough action scenes to resemble a third-person, video-game shooter.

Co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, who are former Hollywood stuntmen and much-in-demand fight scene choreographers no less, lay out the woeful tale of Mr. Wick, a premier killing machine who retires from the business after finding his true love.

Well, tragedy strikes his relationship leaving him feeling a great loss. Relief arrives in the form of a new puppy from his late wife that slightly begins the healing process.

But a snot-nosed son of a Russian mobster (played by Alfie Allen, the sniveling Theon Greyjoy of “Game of Thrones” fame) and his pals quickly extinguish any joy by killing Mr. Wick’s new pet. Our hero returns to business with a vow to terminate his new enemies, no matter the price on his head.

It was awesome to see Mr. Reeves’ return to his “Matrix” days form, performing some spectacular hand-to-hand combat and taking part in plenty of violent firefights.

The acting muscle of Willem Dafoe (as Mr. Wick’s assassin buddy Marcus) and Michael Nyqvist (as the mob boss Viggo Tarasov) help bring to light Mr. Wick’s complexities.

The quirky addition of introducing the Continental Hotel, a sanctioned safe house for assassins — run by the mysterious Winston, played by Ian McShane — also presents a bit of a comic relief to the nearly nonstop thrill ride.

Beautifully crafted and perfectly paced, “John Wick” delivers the violent fun through its compacted 101-minute runtime.

Best extra: An optional commentary track starring both directors shines thanks to their sheer enthusiasm and nonstop discussion on the process of making a physically demanding film.

We learn that the directors were devoted to delivering a living graphic novel onscreen through carefully selected cameras angles as well as lighting pallets. They also were well aware of bullet counts for weapons to not make fights too outrageous, something I have never heard a director talk about. The also gushed about Mr. Reeve’s martial arts and combat training as well as driving skills, gladly using them to the fullest extent.

Play the movie (literally): When the movie came out last fall, one of the best bank robbery first-person shooters ever built, Payday 2 (505 Games, Rated Mature, $29.99 available via the Steam platform), honored the arrival of “John Wick” by making him a playable character in the PC version of the video game.

Now players could control a version of the character, not quite looking like Mr. Reeves but certainly with the attitude and even a choice of sunglasses.

Better yet, developers offered a special perks system called Hitman to enhance skills and allowed him to wield duel weapons (sometimes referred to as akimbo style) and attack with a knife.

Here’s a thought. Why didn’t Lionsgate offer a free version of the game with the Wick character pack within the Blu-ray package as a download code? Seems like a missed marketing opportunity as the company already did this type of promotion with Fandango when buying tickets for the theatrical release of the film.

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