John Wick (2014)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen
Written by: Derek Kolstad
Directed by: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (uncredited)
After his dog is killed and his car is stolen, ex-hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) starts slaughtering all in his path who try to prevent him from getting his revenge.
John Wick is one of the most satisfying action films I have ever seen, and I would go out on a limb and say this is just as good as The Matrix, if not better. I had a giant cheesy grin on my face the entire film. It is bloody. It is action packed. It is magnificent. In the film, Wick makes a comment, and I paraphrase, “Yeah, I think I’m back’.” Yeah, I think Keanu is back. This is a movie not to be missed.
*NOTE*: This is Keanu’s mainstream return. I would argue that he was back in the wonderful The Man of Tai Chi, which Reeves also directed.
Typically, at this stage of my review, I would give you a brief synopsis of the plot of the film I am discussing. Honestly, it is not necessary in this case. The opening sentence of this review is all you need to know going in to the film. When all is said and done, this is an action flick and it moves at a breakneck pace from one action set piece to another. The moral of this story? Don’t fuck with John Wick. He will kill you and all who stand in his way.
What is amazing about this film is that there is no one action scene particularly better than any other. Usually, in an action film, you get an opening action scene, followed by a middle action scene that is bigger than the opening scene, and you get a final scene that is a GINORMOUS piece that tries to top every movie that has come before it. That is not what this film is. Every action set piece is GINORMOUS and spectacular, from the first to the last. This film was clearly a labor of love from the directors, both of whom Reeves met on the set of The Matrix as Stunt Coordinators.
Despite the abundance of action in the film, there is also this strong undercurrent of this underground society or cabal of secret assassins and hitmen (and women), and in this world John Wick is an urban legend. He is called the Baba Yaga, the boogeyman. He is a legend, a myth. An assassin who once killed three men in a bar with a pencil. He has laser precision focus. He cannot be stopped and he will not be stopped. While he is not an inhuman killing machine, he does get beat to shreds in the film, he will not give up. He is a force of nature, a man unwilling to be swayed by the odds. He knows he is better than anyone they can throw at him, even in great numbers. Either that or he just doesn’t care if he walks away from the fight. Either way, he is a tsunami of death and destruction.
That’s not to say this film isn’t without it’s flaws. In the film, when dealing with the underworld society, he pays for everything with gold coins. From his room and board at the assassin safehouse that is The Continental hotel, to paying someone to watch a female assassin who broke the rules, everything is paid with these gold coins. Why? It is never explained. Is it a major gripe? Not even a little bit. It just makes me more curious as to this world that Wick inhabits. In fact, it adds a little more layer to the story. Sure, it left me wanting to know more about the world, but it also gives me something to look forward to in the inevitable sequel.
As I watched this film, I was loving every minute of it. Until the final thirty seconds or so. Yes, the film falters in the FINAL 30 SECONDS!! That honestly is dropping this film from a four star rating, the highest I can recommend a film, to three and a half. I am going to discuss this, so from this point on, THERE BE SPOILERS!
SPOILER WARNING! Turn back now or forever be spoiled!
Ok, so the whole film revolves around he quest for vengeance after his car is stolen and his puppy is killed. The puppy was a gift from his dead wife. So you can understand the need for destroying everything in his path. At the end of the film, he is torn up and breaks into a veterinary clinic and staples himself back together and steals some gauze bandages. Because, of course, that will keep you alive. Just keeping the blood inside will keep you from expiring on the clod city streets. Ok, I can deal with that. He then looks over, sees a dog, and says “Let’s go home.” He then is walking down the street with a dog on a leash. WAIT A MINUTE!! The whole movie revolves around him seeking revenge for his puppy and getting his car back. The puppy that was a gift from his dead wife. WHY WOULD HE GRAB ANOTHER DOG?? If all he needed was another dog, he could have went to the animal shelter and gotten one and no one needed to die. NO! He slaughtered like 100 people for the puppy HIS DEAD WIFE GAVE HIM! And he just walks down the street with another dog. Yeah. I’m serious. THE LAST 30 SECONDS! UGH!
Oh, and where is his car? They kind of forget that plot point about 45 minutes in. I see that as an opportunity for the sequel, though. He heals and tracks down his car. So that I can overlook, despite the fact I questioned it.
SPOILER WARNING CLEAR!
Despite the spoliery bit above, I absolutely loved John Wick. Much like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s underrated and unseen The Last Stand, this film is an immensely satisfying action film that I cannot recommend more highly. Do yourself a favor and see this film. It is simply stunning.
***1/2 out of ****
BIZZAM!! Fun Facts!
- Worldwide gross of $76,192,608 on a production budget of $20 mil.
- This film is packed with actors you will recognize. Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe, Adrienne Palicki, and Bridget Moynahan. I was shocked that so many name actors appeared in this film. You may not know their names, but you will recognize them.
- Keanu Reeves did 90% of his own stunts in the film.
- From IMDB: The Filmmaker’s took into account Keanu Reeve’s Native Hawaiian ethnicity for John Wick’s tattoo. “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat” (Fortune Favors the Bold) is the motto used by 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines based in Marine Corps base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay. Alluding that John Wick was once a U.S. Marine in Hawaii.
- Directors Guild of America rules only allowed Chad Stahleski to be credited as director. In fact, Stahleski and David Leitch directed the film together. Leitch is credited as a producer.
- John Wick kills 78 people in the film. The total body count is 119.
- Michael Nyqvist, who portrays Viggo Tarasov, also starred in the original, and far superior to the US version, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
- Alfie Allen, who portrays Iosef Tarasov, is a regular cast member of the brilliant Game of Thrones. He plays Theon Greyjoy.