New Review: John Wick (2014)
Director: Chad Stalheski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Ian McShane
A word of advice to future bad guys everywhere: Never mess with another man's dog. There's a very good reason why they're called "man's best friend," and if you decide to snap the neck of one whose owner is described as "the guy you would hire to kill the f***ing boogeyman," you'd either better make sure that said owner is dead, or start making your peace with God.
That's just one of the many mistakes the villains of John Wick make. A few days after his wife (Bridget Moynahan) dies of an illness, the titular ex-assassin (Keanu Reeves) receives an adorable dog named Daisy as a posthumous gift from his late wife. Not too long after, Iosef (Alfie Allen), the snooty son of Russian mobster and John's old boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), tries to get Wick to sell him his vintage '69 Mustang, and when Wick tells him no, Iosef kills his dog, steals the car, and leaves John just a little bruised and bloodied.
I know what you're thinking: Why would Iosef do something so stupid? Well, as it turns out, he's perhaps the one person who doesn't know who John Wick is. The chop shop owner (John Leguizamo) he takes the car to is very well aquanited with Wick, and rightly punches Iosef in the face when he tries to sell him the Mustang. When Iosef tells daddy about the punch, Viggo calls the chop shop owner up, which leads to an amusingly brief telephone conversation between the two men.
After Viggo makes a very poor attempt to reason with Wick, he orders a $2 million dollar hit on John, and from there, the movie plunges into a series of non-stop action scenes. The first big set-piece is a crisply shot, edited, and choreographed sequence where 12 armed gunmen try pulling a sneak attack on John at his house, and no points if you can guess who comes out on top. It's a terrifically entertaining action scene, and it climaxes with a laugh-out-loud encounter with a police officer who shows up at Wick's house on a disturbance call.
Directed with style and breathless energy by stuntman-turned-debut-filmmaker Chad Stalheski, John Wick doesn't pretend to be anything but a brainless and clichéd action movie. You want an action movie that balances its thrills with a strong storyline and well-defined characters, then buddy, you're watching the wrong movie. The only thing this movie concerns itself with is dishing out an endless series of action scenes as stylishly as it possibly can, and in that regard, the movie is a success.
Cinematographer Jonathan Sela bathes the movie in a rich array of colors, giving the movie a hypnotically beautiful visual sheen, and editor Elísabet Ronalds's work is splendidly done, as she keeps the movie moving at a fast pace without cutting the action scenes into incomprehensible bits.
As visually stunning as the movie is, it's ultimately the film's top-notch performances that make the movie as compelling as it is. Reeves is note perfect as the emotionless killing machine, turning in what is easily his best performance in ages. He's not required to show a lot of emotion for much of the movie, but even when he does (such as the scene where he cries after reading a letter from his wife), he pulls it off quite nicely. John Wick may not be what you would call a three-dimensional character, but thanks to Reeves's magnetic performance, he's also someone you can't look away from.
The rest of the cast fill their roles very well. Michael Nyqvist has a lot of fun as the villainous Viggo, while Allen does a very good job of making one envious of John Leguizomo (I wanted to punch him in the face too). Willem Dafoe offers solid support as a hitman who frequently aids Wick on his quest, as does Ian McShane as the owner of a hotel that caters to professional killers. Although he's only in the movie for a short time, Leguizamo makes the most out of his brief appearance. One performance I particularly enjoyed was turned in by Adrianne Palicki, who plays a sexy and vicious femme fatale who engages John in an entertaining fight scene set inside his hotel room.
John Wick ends with the main character disappearing into the night with a pit-bull in tow. Does that mean that there's going to be a sequel? Possibly. Bad guys can't seem to stop themselves from taking Liam Neeson's family (they even got a Taken 3 coming out next year), so who's to say that John and his new best friend are going to have a bright future ahead of them? If not, then we can be grateful we at least get this much. John Wick is good, unpretentious fun, and the ultimate revenge thriller for dog lovers everywhere.
Rated R for LOTS of violence, blood, profanity, some drug use
Final Grade: *** (out of ****)
What did you think of this movie? :)
Other Thoughts on John Wick (2014)
- John Wick: the new name in crummy action cinema - The Globe and Mail
The screenplay is cliché, nobody plays against type, and every human in the film feels like a sack of meat waiting to be tenderized
- John Wick burns out | Reviews | Creative Loafing Charlotte
JOHN WICK**DIRECTED BY David Leitch & Chad StahelskiSTARS Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist Pop quiz, hotshot. What's the fastest, most efficient way to have an entire...
- John Wick - Official Trailer (2014) Keanu Reeves [HD] - YouTube
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