John Wick, or Keanu Reeves Kills Everyone or Tonight We’re Going to Movie Like It’s 1999, is the story of what happens when you kill an ex-assassin’s dog. Turns out, it’s just about exactly as wise as you might think it is.
John Wick has everything that’s been missing from the action movies I’ve been watching for about 15 years now. Lots of action, head shots, blood and brains splattering faces and walls, violence, revenge, deaths, dog killing, Daniel “Not JCVD” Bernhardt, Marilyn Manson on the soundtrack… for better or worse, John Wick is a return to the mid-late 90s, and I for one welcome it.
The main draw here is the action. It takes about 20 minutes to set up all the pieces, but once they’re set, the movie’s pacing is fantastic. It doesn’t really let up until it’s all over. And that action is great. It’s well choreographed, and simultaneously gritty and romanticized. Bodies pile up quickly, by the dozens. The assassins here have a code, and a safe-zone hotel, “The Continental”. Only pathetic scumbags break the assassin’s code. The movie could be dark and broody all the time, but instead they choose to portray the assassins here in a very business as usual environment. If Sam the Sheep Dog and Ralph the Coyote had clocked in behind Keanu at the Continental, I wouldn’t have been that surprised.
Wick is a classic action movie superhero. He’s right up there with John McClane. Stricken with grief, he seems to be hanging on by a thread, but still very much in control of his Killing Skills. He’s like the Oprah’s Favourite Things of headshots. While most of the bodyguards and some assassins (save mini-bosses, like Daniel “Bloodsport 2, 3 and 4” Bernhardt) seem panicky, shooting wildly and out of control, John stays in complete control of his faculties, like a gun-using, maskless goddamn Batman.
The entire cast is perfect in their roles. Michael Nyqvist is fantastic as Russian Mobster, Viggo, who switches effortlessly between intimidated and intimidating. Alfie Allen is great as his weasel son, Iosef. Dean Winters’ character Avi is completely pointless, but still does a great job of making the audience laugh which–like “business-as-usual” stuff–breaks the tension and keeps the movie from being too broody. It’s great to see Ian “Deadwood” McShane in anything. Willem Dafoe and Adrianne Palicki’s characters are excellent additions and leave you wanting more.
If I have to complain about something, it’s that Dafoe and Palicki could’ve and should’ve been used more, I think. Another potential complaint is that product placement is everywhere. If that sort of thing breaks your immersion or otherwise annoys you, it could be a problem.
Other than that, this is a great mindless action movie. When it showed up on my radar, I was honestly skeptical. If you know me at all, you’ll know it drives me absolutely insane how often movies are “Saving the Dog” as I call it. Having characters put themselves in tremendous danger to save a pet–or completely random animal–usually makes me rage at my screen. So a revenge movie where the catalyst is the death of a pet had me shaking my head. However, this revenge plot is more than just being about the death of a pet and, for once, I can actually see how this instance would definitely motivate the character presented.
I ended up really, really enjoying this one. Having seen it, it’s not that surprising. It takes some of the best pieces of my favourite old formulas and puts them together in a fun and exciting way. And that’s really all I’m ever looking for in an action movie.