John Wick is a retired hitman who has just lost his wife to an illness. Upon her passing she arranges for a Beagle puppy to be sent to her husband to help him cope with his grief. It looks like Wick will be alright with the lovable puppy Daisy by his side. But then an encounter with a bunch of Russian gang members destroys everything Wick has. They attack and beat him, steal his prized ’69 Mustang and unmercifully kill Daisy.
It is only later the gang’s leader Iosef learns the problem he’s created. His father Viggo who heads the Russsian crime syndicate in New York has worked with Wick in the past and knows just how dangerous and ruthless he is – and he’s not too happy that now Wick has a reason to go after them.
And that’s exactly what Wick sets out to do. With his sights set on getting revenge on Iosef there’s nowhere Wick won’t go to get him and no amount of henchmen can stop him. Bullets fly, explosions erupt and bodies are drop all over the place until Wick gets his hands on Iosef.
This is a B-movie at its core. The story is one that has been done many times over. It’s a revenge movie. We know the routine – bad guys do the hero wrong, hero gets really upset and hero dishes out some justice on bad guys.
Once upon a time this movie would have starred Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood, Michael Caine, Denzel Washington, Jason Statham, Liam Neeson,….insert any male actor even remotely associated with an action movie and your good to go.
Although it might be a stripped down B-action movie premise that might have been used in a cheap Cannon film back in the 80’s doesn’t mean it’s not fun. There’s really not a heck of a lot of story and that’s a good thing since that would just get in the way of the action scenes which is why you would be wanting to watch this.
We get the setup of Wick’s lonely situation, him getting bullied by brutes who kill his dog and then he’s pulling out his guns and we’re off and running.
And the action does deliver. It should considering director Chad Stahelski has been a renowned stunt coordinator for dozens of films (along with uncredited co-director David Leitch).
Reeves dispatches bad guys in violent video game mode, never slowing up and always with an endless supply of bullets in his guns.
The action is well choreographed and things start to become so over-the-top you can’t take it seriously, but it’s still awfully satisfying. And no splice-a-second fast cutting or shaky-cam close-ups and any of that lazy popular action style is around here. I was able to follow exactly what was going down, which was refreshing to see.
I was surprised at the droll humor that’s sprinkled throughout the movie. As Reeve gets pulled back into his violent life he stays at a hotel that apparently caters specifically to a killing clientele. Lance Reddick is unfazed by Wick’s business he’s conducting and handles any outlandish request his guest might have. It’s an amusing role and reinforces that this movie knows what it wants to be and is having some fun with it.
I’ve never been much of a fan of Reeves, but when he’s doing his action stuff he’s perfectly fine. His co-stars including Willem Dafoe, Michael Nyqvist, Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki and Alfie Allen as Iosef are all fine. None of them particularly stood out to me and basically they fulfilled their required B-movie roles adequately enough that I couldn’t complain.
This isn’t a character piece, it’s the action that is the real star here and fortunately it doesn’t disappoint. When an old school action film like John Wick comes around that is stylishly done and is a throwback to the more harder-edged action films of yesteryear it really stands out amongst the epic CGI-heavy. PG-13, big-budget films that have become the norm today. I enjoyed it much more than I expected to.
The one key action scene in this film is the club shootout, which is a masterstroke of action cinema. The choregraphy is phenomenal and combined with the gunplay it leads to a memorable scene. But what really gives this sequence that extra speciality is the production design. From the basement pool area all the way up to the dance floor, the scene is an exercise of brilliant craftsmanship and kinetic spectacle.
For me that pretty much sums up the pros of John Wick, because the rest of the film is one of the biggest letdown's I had in 2014. Firstly I was never a major fan of Reeves. Sure Speed maybe one of the finest action films of the 90s, sure The Matrix pushed the envelope of action gunplay, but overall I've always found him forced and one note, and not in an entertaining kitcsh way.
Secondly the whole assassin's brotherhood thing is too (lack of a better word) complimentary. Sure the guy maybe a legend, but he could easily have been turned on by his former collegues. Also the lack of a memorable rival doesn't help things. The way Nykvist says to his son, played by Alfie Allen, "He killed him with a pencillll……. A pencilllll" The way Nykvist exclaims "pencil" is supposed to show the film's tongue in cheek, instead it becomes foot in mouth.
Overall John Wick is a let down, that is barely held together, and gets away with one amazing set piece. News of a sequel maybe exciting for some, and all I say is "Good For You"
Okay, Reeves isn't the greatest actor in the world, no argument there! To me, his most memorable performance as Theodore 'Ted' Logan in the BILL & TED movies…and reportedly, he and the writers and Alex Winter are currently doing a 3rd film. That being said, I loved JOHN WICK, it was awesome, full of action and the droll humor you pointed out. I'm looking forward to a sequel, no question. 🙂