Movie Review: John Wick

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A retired assassin gets back into the game to chase down the man who commits a terrible crime against him.

starstwopointfive

Chad Stahelski & David Leitch 2014

When his wife is fridged by cancer, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is despondent. Knowing how lonely he would be after her death, his wife organised for a puppy to be sent to his house once she was gone. He bonds with the puppy, named Daisy. When stopping his fancy car at a petrol station, Wick invokes the ire of criminal heir Iosef (Alfie Allen), son of crime lord Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), by refusing to sell him the car. Iosef breaks into Wick’s home, steals his car, and kills Daisy. Wick vows to take revenge on Iosef, returning to the world he left behind and mowing through it in a hail of bullets. Viggo, infuriated by his son’s idiocy in targeting the famous John Wick, tries to stop the killing machine.

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I’m always a fan of a universe that establishes itself with some really solid, consistent rules, which is something I particularly enjoyed about John Wick. Wick hits every single target once, then shoots him again in the head. Every one. There is a minor loophole that while he can easily dodge bullets he never seems to be able to hear a car coming, but hey, they have to advance the plot somehow. He’s a ruthlessly efficient killer, which is exciting in the first few action scenes. The shadowy secret organisation of assassins is fun, with its strict rules that are strictly upheld (as the feisty Ms. Perkins, played with vigor by Adrianne Palicki, discovers). The world is well-established but not excessively complicated, and has elements of camp without being too cheesy for it to work. The hits are bruising, and the action moves well through the settings. It looks good, stylish, in a rain-soaked (again) landscape. The problem is that it never really elevates above the level of solid. Everything I liked about it is stylistic, and the script doesn’t really support it.

There’s not a lot to this movie, and we’ve seen more than enough revenge films lately that I don’t think this really adds much to the genre. John Wick looks like it’s aiming to be a franchise, Taken-style, and while getting revenge for the death of an adorable puppy is perfectly understandable and some might say more justifiable than a lot of the other films, it’s still predictable. A couple of scenes are great, but it’s still repetitive and relentless when a movie is so action-heavy with no surprises to show for it. From the beginning you know exactly what you’re getting into – an hour and a half of shoot-outs and fistfights from a hardcore blank-faced Keanu Reeves in a three-piece suit. If that’s what you’re interested in, then go for it, but I don’t think it’s as special as it’s being heralded as.

John Wick on IMDb

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