Immersed in the world of John Wick

Immersed in the world of John Wick
John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves' new film John Wick is a smaller budget, stunt-heavy film that could not be more different from his last project, 47 Ronin.

That 2013 big-budget major studio work was packed - critics said over-filled - with computer-generated beasties, all part of a science- fiction fantasy world.

Reeves felt good to return to a simpler form of film-making in John Wick, a lean, back-to-basics movie that does not shy away from violent action during fight scenes.

Speaking to Life! on the telephone from Los Angeles, he says: "The script had a great world - it was romantic, gothic, it had a code of honour for the assassins. It synthesised influences from 1970s Hong Kong cinema. I really enjoyed the world they created."

Stunt coordinators-turned-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leith, who had worked with Reeves in The Matrix (1999), are making their feature film debut with John Wick.

Because of their background, the pair paid close attention to the quality of the car chases and martial arts - Reeves trained for three months in judo, jujitsu and weapon-handling.

"The directors wanted to raise the bar in the action. They shot longer takes and did not make it with fast cuts. You see it all happening in front of you," he says.

"They wanted to mix the techniques - pistols with judo throws, ground work and choke holds."

But otherwise, their approach to storytelling is the same as with directors from traditional backgrounds, he says.

Reeves, who likes to give input into the characters he plays, this time suggested that instead of using flashbacks to show his happy time with his dead wife, why not use technology that everyone holds in the pocket?

"I came up with the idea of John watching a movie he made of him kissing his wife," he says.

But no place was his input more essential than on his directorial debut, Man Of Tai Chi, released last year. While it received some critical acclaim, it sank at the box office, due in part to distributors shunning the film.

He says that despite the setback, he is looking for a new directing project. What he would do differently next time, he says rather vaguely, is to "make sure that the right people are there when it comes to the creative vision".

Man Of Tai Chi starred Reeves' good friend, martial arts coordinator Tiger Chen, in the lead as a martial arts master roped into fighting in underground matches. Reeves had a supporting role as the villain.

Poor distribution hurt the film, he says.

"I'm really disappointed by that. I really like the film and was hoping that more people would get the chance to see it. But that's one of the circumstances of show business," he says.

johnlui@sph.com.sg

John Wick is in cinemas.


This article was first published on October 25, 2014.
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