Revenge films do not get more straight up that this. John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a retired hitman who has just lost his wife (Bridget Moynahan) to an illness. He is grieving and he is alone, and then some punk ass kid tries to screw with him. John Wick is reviewed after the jump.
John encounters some Russian thugs at a gas station and when one asks to buy his car, he tells them to get lost and drives off. The thug ring leader turns out to be Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, Game of Thrones), the son of New York’s crime syndicate boss, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). He’s got a chip on his shoulder and doesn’t take to being told no. The men track down Wick and attack him at his home, taking from him things that really matter. What Iosef doesn’t realise is that Wick was once a legendary assassin. He was the man you sent in to kill the bogeyman – not exactly someone you get on the wrong side of. Wick declares war on Iosef and anyone who stands in his way.
John Wick is pure revenge, served hot and without additional noise. There is nothing simpler than a man seeking revenge for a wrong that was committed and John Wick doesn’t try to make it anything more complicated than that. That’s why this film works so well – its high energy, relentless, in-your-face revenge, and when someone as interesting as Keanu Reeves is the protagonist, you’re in for a damn good time. Reeves is excellent in this, in fact I’d say it’s his best performance in almost a decade. He’s got the cool calm demeanour (aka, Neo in The Matrix) down pat, and a commanding screen presence. It’s hard to believe that he is 50, he moves with such ease.
Reeves is surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast including William Dafoe, who is excellent in a more sympathetic role than he usually plays. Alfie Allen was well-cast as the snivelling thug; while Lance Riddick (Fringe) amused as the Continental Hotel’s manager. While film is certainly not going to pass the Bechdel test, it did have one female (Adrianne Palicki, Friday Night Lights), playing a kick-ass, rule-breaking assassin.
As far as action films go, this one is better than most and that’s due to strong direction and impressive stunt choreography. The action sequences flow so well and there’s a real believability to the hand-to-hand combat scenes. The camera doesn’t shake or cut away unnecessarily, we get to see it all. This is directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski’s directorial début, however both have their roots in stunt coordinating (they worked with Reeves on The Matrix), which is evident in the high quality of the action scenes (which make up at least 2/3 of the film).
On the downside, the pop-rock soundtrack, which works well in some parts of the film (particularly the club sequence), is at times overbearing and ill-fitting. There are also a handful of lines of dialogue that are real clunkers – the words are certainly not as slick as the film’s look.
If you want your revenge straight up, John Wick is the film for you. Enjoy its unrelenting barrage of death at the hands of an extremely slick, exceptionally stylish assassin.
By Sam McCosh
Director: David Leitch, Chad Stahelski
Writer(s): Derek Kolstad (screenplay)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Adrianne Palicki, Willem Dafoe
Runtime: 101 minutes
Release date(s): USA: October 24 2014; Australia: October 30 2014; New Zealand: November 27 2014