“I heard you punched my son. Why?”
“He stole John Wick’s car.”
That’s John Wick for you: darkly humorous, full of action, and made with its own rules in mind. This is far from perfect, but it’s the type of action film that isn’t produced enough these days, one that employs an incredibly simplistic structure, but one that still succeeds aesthetically and violently and creatively. It’s loads of fun, and it looks gorgeous.
What immediately sets this movie apart is the lack of needless exposition at the beginning, as Bridget Moynahan barely has any screen time as Helen, John’s wife. John Wick does not need explaining because it is very easy to understand, and when Helen gifts her husband a new dog, knowing that she’s going to die of cancer, we understand exactly what John’s motivations are when he goes on his quest for revenge. There are two things left that John can possibly love, and those two things–a ’69 Mustang and Daisy, the adorable beagle–are exactly what is taken from him by Iosef Tarasov and co.
As the movie progresses, we realize that although the fundamentals of the plot are the same as for any other revenge film, there’s something engaging and unique about the world-building here. This is an environment in which everyone seems to know everyone, in which all these criminals exchange their own currency, in which there is a hotel–the Continental–that specifically caters to these kinds of people. A world and a code for that world has already been established, and the film takes us through this world with an energetic and confident hand. We’re introduced to John’s character through other people, through their telling of his past ventures and through their interactions with him in the present.
The film doesn’t have anything particularly deep to say, and although there are a few nods at corruption and money and power, what stands out here is the exciting, stylized action. A particular fight sequence in a nightclub is the perfect encapsulation of everything there is to love about John Wick: it’s a simple, generic story told through an original, exhilarating lens, and it’s a blast to watch unfold.
-Reloading has never been so cool. Also, every other action movie, John Wick is here to tell you that reloading is a thing that exists.
HOW DO YOU KILL THIS FACE?
-Alfie Allen’s face, on the other hand, is so punchable.
-Keanu Reeves. It’s so good to see him back in a great role. He’s been maligned for his acting before, but this movie is a perfect fit for him and the inherent charm he possesses, and I especially like the juxtaposition of him and the beagle.
-This is a hell of a cast. Many people don’t have huge roles, but when you have the likes of Lance Reddick, Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki, Michael Nyqvist, and more, you can’t go wrong.
-Eva Longoria is a producer for this movie. Alright, then.
-Chad Stahelski and David Leitch are the directors of the movie, and they both have experience as actual stuntmen. A very exciting and confident debut for the two of them.
-The cinematographer is Jonathan Sela. The last movie he shot was A Good Day to Die Hard, which is an example of what not to do when making an action movie.
-There’s a refreshing lack of shaky cam used throughout, but there are a few instances during the nightclub scene in which the shaky cam is used. There is a clear purpose, though, as we get the shaky cam as we’re following Iosef; that undoubtedly reflects his state of mind.
– “Your membership to the Continental has, by thine own hand, been revoked.” Awesome line.
-Hey, Clarke Peters. Bye, Clarke Peters.
-The Keymaker from The Matrix Reloaded shows up as the doctor who stitches Wick up.
-A few sequences at the end seem to be tacked on a bit to pad the runtime, but the final one is certainly wonderfully shot and exciting. In particular, I like John hitting the guy with the car, then shooting him through the roof as he tumbles across the top. Also, what climactic sequence would be complete without a fistfight on top of something in the rain?
-Next to the pitbull’s cage, there is a sheet that says “To be put down”. After a movie full of death–upwards of 80 bodies–John Wick ends up saving a life.
Photo credit: John Wick, Legendary Pictures, Summit Entertainment