John Wick? John Wick. Johhhhnnn Wick. JOHN Wick. John. John WICK? JOHNNNN Wick. John. Wick. Johnny Wickles. Jonathan.
I jokingly suggested that I would do a shot for every time that someone said ‘John Wick’ in this movie. I realized that I value my life way more than I do being nonsensical.
‘Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!’ Or, in John Wick’s case ‘Just when I thought I was was out by murdering everyone… they pull me back in so that I can continue to murder everyone.’ The concept of the ‘retired bad-ass not being so retired anymore’ has made quite the resurgence lately. With actors such as Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington and Kevin Costner dipping their toes in the ultra-violent revenge genre, it would make sense that the immortal Keanu Reeves would eventually make an appearance. I still remember seeing films like the THE SHOOTIST and HIGH NOON and instantly falling in love with the idea of the retired hero trying to make a new life for them self. Traditionally, it’s not long until the death of a loved one or an unsolicited assault prompts them back into the killing game. JOHN WICK heavily embraces this concept and executes it exceptionally well.
As I attempt to recite the plot of JOHN WICK in my head, I find myself getting slightly annoyed. Normally, I am not a fan of any plot that involves a character so severely dangerous and epic, that even the most revered villain whispers his name. John Wick is the monster that kills monsters. He’s calculated and methodical, brutal and without an inch of remorse. A character you really should despise. He’s no where near as ruthless as Anton Chigurh (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) but, as I try to disprove this comparison, the only example I can come up with is that John Wick has way better hair. What JOHN WICK does do, that I really respect, is that the movie immediately establishes John as a sympathetic character. The first few moments of the movie show John Wick bleeding out over his phone as he watches a video of his recently deceased wife. The next 15 minutes show John Wick attempting to make his way through the first few days of losing the woman that made him walk away from his sinister life style. He is a broken man and you can’t help but feel bad for him. You start to forget that you’re watching an action movie and start to think that maybe you’re watching some romantic fluff like THE LAKE HOUSE. It’s not until John Wick stumbles across some villainous foes that end up stealing John’s car and killing his dog, that we start to see elements of the most notorious hit man that has ever hit men.
This movie hits all the right points perfectly. I really enjoyed the way that everyone quivered at the mention of John Wick’s name. How every one seems to know him and knows to stay out of his way. Once the main villain realizes who his son has attacked and brutalized, everyone (except his son) is immediately aware of the shit storm that is coming their way. John Wick is coming for vengeance and there’s really nothing you can do about it. What follows is some pretty intense action scenes and assassiny shenanigans. John Wick is cool and methodical. The camera is pulled far enough back that you can fully appreciate how calculated John Wick’s attacks are. John Wick quickly disposes of all threats with absolutely no sympathy and restraint. There is no pause and there is very little mercy. The few moments that John Wick does hold his hand back, you can only assume it’s because he’s acting by some unspoken code that haunts the entirety of the movie.
Some of my favorite moments of JOHN WICK revolve around the world that John exists and works in. The idea that an hotel/club exists that caters strictly to the seedy underbelly of our world, that doubles as both a ‘safe house’ and ‘holy ground’ for assassins, fascinates me to no end. There is a code amongst them and harsh penalties to those who break them. While Keanu and his beard are the main focus of JOHN WICK, his supporting characters add an extra level of credibility to the film. Ian McShane as the hotel owner is amazing. Willem Dafoe as John’s mentor/friend throw this movie onto a crazy great level. Adrianne Palicki continues to surprise me with her action chops and really kicks the shit in this movie. Personally, Lance Reddick as the ‘hotel manager’ is the only character I wanted more of.
JOHN WICK will prove to be one of those movies that you will constantly hear your friends say “Wait, you haven’t seen JOHN WICK? It’s good! Way better than I thought it would be.’ I had to look up who the fight choreographer was because the action scenes are noticeably better than what we are use to. (Jonathan Eusebio? IMDB him. He’s got a pretty great track record.) JOHN WICK manages to be a lot of what you would expect from this type of film, but, with a lot of delightful cinematic surprises. There were a lot of moments where my buddy would lean over to me and say ‘I’ve never seen that in an action movie before.’ Definitely do not sleep on JOHN WICK. You will be surprised by how great this movie is. And, most importantly, don’t kill John Wick’s dog. Your face will regret it.
Final Score: 8 out of 10