After bungling the last few movies he’s come into contact with (let us not even speak of their names), Keanu Reeves has finally struck gold once again. Thank you, Keanu Reeves.
John Wick is a sad man with a dark history. His wife just died, and one day later, the dog that was given to him as a present from his late wife was brutally murdered by Russian mobsters – simply because they wanted his car. As the Russian mobsters revel in their glory of attaining the beautiful Mustang, the higher-ups slowly come to the realization of the gravity of the situation. Just what the fuck have they done? Who did they do this to?
John Wick has reached an unattainable level of respect in the assassin/murderer/mobster community. His name itself makes the titular villain, Viggo Tarasov, shake in his leather shoes. As it’s revealed in John’s actions throughout the film, we can see the sheer amount of rage, determination, and sadness that powers him. Everybody that knows who he is fears him, and for good reason too.
John Wick is not a good man. He has not done good things. But fuck, you can’t just kill a man’s dog and expect to get away with it. I spent the entire movie rooting for John, even as he plunged knives into people’s hearts and shot faces at point blank range. They knew exactly what the audience wanted, and we got it – Keanu Reeves kicking some serious, serious ass. However, it’s nothing like the hollow explosions, overly-flourished knife fights, and long-winded car chases that we’ve come to dread in most action movies. John Wick has risen above that and given us reason to want this violent shit again. Watching him kill people got so satisfying that people in the theatre started cheering. Even though he’s 50 (for anyone else in Hollywood, 100), Keanu was like a well-dressed ballerina with guns.
The atmosphere created in the film is so desaturated and surreal, yet so permeating that you can’t help but wonder how awesome it would be if it were really true. Services are paid for in shining gold coins, loyalty and respect among assassins, and my favourite of all? The Continental. An underground hotel where the rules are absolute – no jobs on the property, and everyone was safe. Break the rules? We’ll break your neck. This movie did a better job at building a stylized world than most superhero movies could ever dream of. If there were to be an action-movie franchise based solely in this world, I’d be a happy gal.
While Keanu Reeves is undoubtedly the highlight of the film, there is something to be said about the supporting cast that makes it much more entertaining. Viggo Tarasov, played by Michael Nyqvist, was a delightful addition. You wouldn’t expect him to be the main source of laughs and quippy lines (“He’s not the Boogeyman. He’s the one you sent to kill the Boogeyman.”, but he is. Willem Dafoe plays a fellow assassin and longtime friend of John’s, Adrianne Palicki plays a female assassin that’s not to be trifled with, and Alfie Allen (yes, Lily Allen’s brother) plays the Russian idiot that killed John Wick’s dog.
Personally, I think the music deserves a shoutout. Marilyn Manson’s throaty screeches to the pounding bass line leaves your head spinning in a post-orgasmic haze. It sets a haunting and thrilling tone to the movie that is incredibly unique to the movie’s stylized look. A+ on that part.
As for the cons – and there were plenty, as much as I enjoyed it – would have to be Keanu’s signature delivery of his lines. It’s when he’s not speaking that he truly shines, and thank goodness he doesn’t speak all that much in the movie. As with many other action movies, there were plenty of moments where I wondered, “But can’t you just kill him like this?” and the movie would’ve been over in 20 minutes, but honestly, if you forgo the plot and the holes for the gunfights and the music, then I think you’re gonna enjoy yourself immensely. Seriously, I haven’t been this thrilled about people getting shot up and down the street since Hot Fuzz.
John Wick is an incredibly satisfying action movie with just the right amount of chuckles in between the gunfights. The villains are villainous, and the hero is heroic (kind of). Get your butt to the theatre and get ready for action that leaves you wanting more.