John Wick is probably the most generic movie title since John Carter (followed closely by John Q) but don’t let that deter you. John Wick is by far my favorite action movie from the last 10 years. This film came out of nowhere, and after accidentally watching the trailer, I was immediately sold on its premise.
Full disclosure: I am a closet Keanu Reeves fan, and due to this, I enjoyed his recent films 47 Ronin and Man of Tai Chi. To me, Keanu is the type of actor who thrives in specific roles that require brief dialogue and rely more on his screen presence. When he is in films that do not fit that criteria, his performance suffers (Dracula and Much Ado about Nothing); luckily, this is the former, not the latter.
John Wick is co-directed by first time directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, but both are seasoned stunt actors with an impressive resume featuring films like 300, Serenity, and Fight Club. After viewing this film, I would never have guessed that this was their first time in the director’s chair. They waste no time introducing us to Keanu as John Wick. He looks like he has seen better days, watching a video of his wife on his blood-soaked cell phone as he slowly falls to the ground, holding his stomach from what is presumed a gunshot wound.The film then jumps back in time and shows John with his terminally ill wife, played by Bridgette Moynahan (I, Robot), as she slowly passes away in a hospital room–but not before she leaves him a gift in the form of a dog to keep him company once she is gone.
Next we see John having a chance encounter at a gas station with up-and-coming Russian mafia gangster Losef Tarasov, played perfectly by Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones), who offers to buy John’s car. When John refuses, Losef takes it as a sign of disrespect and decides to break into John’s house, brutally beat him, kill his dog, and take his car. What Losef didn’t know was that John used to be his fathers best hitman: he was so good that he earned the nickname “Boogey Man.” Since Losef killed the last thing on earth that John cared about, he decides to come out of retirement and seek revenge on Losef and any one else who gets in his way, including Losef’s father boss Viggo Tarasov, played by Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.) His performance at times reminded me of actor Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds), which isn’t a bad thing…but I did wonder if it was intentional or accidental. But overall, it wasn’t distracting and did’t hurt the film.
I know its premise has been done to death in Hollywood in films like Man on Fire and Revenge, but what differentiates this film from the rest is its realistic approach to its action. This is not a dramatic character study of a man with nothing to loose; it’s an action movie about a guy with nothing to lose, and a gun. Lots of guns actually. When John is dispatching Russian mobsters, he does it so naturally that it doesn’t feel choreographed. He doesn’t make it flashy; he just makes it death. This is definitely not The Raid.
What is equally awesome are the shootouts and gunplay that reminded me of the great bullet ballet master Chow Yun Fat. I know that’s a bold statement, but every double tap and headshot is so fluid that it also reminded me of the “gun kata” from Equilibrium, toned down to a more realistic application. John is a professional, and thus he never does an unnecessary reload, making sure every bullet counts. Competent application of tactics. Thank you.
The only negative thing I can say about this film isn’t really a negative at all, but a necessary compromise to keep the film moving along. This film has the best ensemble cast of an action movie since Expendables 2.
This film has William Defoe (Antichrist), Dean Winters (Oz), John Leguazamo (Summer of Sam), Ian McShane (Deadwood), Lance Reddick (The Wire), and Clarke Peters (The Wire.) This is the John Wick show, so I understand why they had to take a back seat, but I just can’t get enough of Ian McShane, and he is barely used in this film. It feels like a missed opportunity had he been cast in the role of Viggo, but due to his age, some scenes and action set pieces towards the end of this film would have to be toned down or ultimately cut. Go watch Deadwood, and you will understand my love for him as an actor. Better yet, just YouTube the words “hoople head.”
I could go on for days about what I loved in this film, because it really is that good. So let me offer you action junkies the following to help you decide if it’s worth your time: a night club shootout, a hotel exclusively for assassins, fast muscle cars, an amazing score, exotic weapons, and more headshots than any other film I have ever seen, including Rambo 4. Yes, films like Safe and Replacement Killers had these, but John Wick is the next evolution of those set pieces, and you owe it to yourself to experience them.
I am giving this film a “must see” recommendation, and I highly urge all fellow Keanu fans to go support this film. It really is that good.
Article by contributor Moan4Stallone.
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