Simply put, John Wick is a revenge flick, and hot damn is it fun to watch! I can’t say revenge movies are big on my list of favorite sub-genres, but there are some that I’ve enjoyed over the years (like Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy) and this one is close to the top of my list of favorites…
Keanu Reeves stars as the main character who recently lost his wife and is in the mourning process. He also happens to be a retired assassin who finds himself in a position of becoming a victim when some gangster types decide to rough him up, steal his car and kill his dog. You can steal a man’s car, but you do NOT kill a man’s dog (the dog is kind of special but I’ll let the movie explain why). In a “every time I’m out, they pull me back in” type of scenario, Wick emerges from retirement to issue some retribution for the foul deeds of his assailants. By the way, the chief assailant happens to be the son of one of the underground figures Wick used to work for.
The storyline, while formulaic and not super-original, is still enjoyable to watch unfold and serves as an appropriate vehicle for delivering the film in a way that manages to feel fresh for being so familiar. There aren’t many (if any) unexpected twists but I found myself not really caring about that. I was more immersed in the action, the delivery of the actors and the catchy dialog. One of my favorite aspects of the John Wick character is that just about everyone knows who John Wick is and noone wants to tangle with him (except for the unknowing thugs who assaulted him in the first place). Even the police let him slide when they encounter him at his home with a number of dead bodies laying around preferring that he attend to his own issues.
Keanu Reeves is in fine form in this film. Reeves is often regarded as being very wooden in his delivery but in John Wick he demonstrates some range as he manages to pull off being distraught about his wife and dog in a convincing manner while also executing the thousand mile stare while in killing mode. Bottom line is that he’s really good in this film and is engaging on screen. All the actors in the film are quite good and make the most of their screen time, I found no weak links in the cast in terms of talent or performance. The impressive lineup includes: Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Michael Nyqvist as well as Toby Leonard Moore from Daredevil and Alfie Allen from Game of Thrones.
The directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch do a fine job crafting the film. The action sequences are exciting, well choreograhed and entertaining. Action can be hard to convey in a way that keeps the adrenalin up while maintaining a sense of originality, John Wick manages to accomplish both.
If you dig action oriented revenge stories, John Wick should be right up your alley. There aren’t too many films in this genre that I’d care to revisit for another viewing, but this movie is one I’ll take for another spin.
reviewed by Sean McKnight