John Wick review
February 08, 2015

Last night I watched "John Wick" and now it ranks among my favorite action movies of all time. Admittedly, I haven't watched as many films of that sort as some people, but I loved "The Transporter," I thought "The Bourne Identity" was terrific and now I like this one.

"John Wick" is not the sort of movie that would work if it took itself seriously. It is a fun movie, not a good or especially complex one. Essentially, it is 100 minutes of action, broken up occasionally by sappy sentimentality that quickly gives Keanu Reeves' character motivation to shoot someone in the face at point blank range.

The movie's weakest point is the plot, which isn't even weak in ways that wind up mattering in a case like this. John Wick has recently lost his wife to a disease that put her on life support, and now he is learning to cope with the assistance of a puppy named Daisy that she arranged to have sent his way when she knew she wasn't going to survive. Wick takes the dog out for a ride and stops to refuel at a gas station, where he meets some Russian thugs who want his car. He says it's not for sale and leaves.

That night, or soon after, he wakes up to Daisy's whines, so he heads downstairs to see if she needs to be let out to do her business. Instead, he finds the thugs waiting in his house. They beat him savagely and drive off with his car. They do other stuff too, and you can probably see it coming because this is the sort of uncomplicated script that tries to hit you with a 2x4 even if a light slap to the face would have done the job.

When the thugs take the car to a shop to have it stripped of identifying plates or whatever else, the man who runs that business tells them to get out of his sight, and punches the thug who organized the car theft. He's not happy at all because he knows who owned it. That sets off a brief chain of events that conclude with everyone looking worried because their criminal organization made a huge mistake. The gist here: you don't screw with John Wick.

Those early scenes introduce a plot hole of sorts that the movie never bothers to explain. If John Wick is such a legend--and he seems to be--then how in the world did the son of a huge crime syndicate not recognize him, or at least his name? How did the errant Russian lad manage to track John Wick down to steal his car, but not realize that he was making a huge mistake in doing so? The script never explains this, and I don't think we're supposed to ask.

With John Wick about to wake up and become a threat, the crime syndicate boss orders a hit on him, which of course had to happen. We've heard that John Wick is a grade-A badass, so now we get to see it. And of course, we do. "John Wick" is filled with all sorts of action from that point onward, a nearly unrelenting stream interrupted only briefly by things like character development and dialogue… but it works.

Mostly, that approach works because the guys behind the film are a team of first-time directors who (the blu-ray extras tell me) previously handled the choreography for a lot of action films these last couple of decades. They know what they're doing, and each scene is a stylish treat. There's all sorts of visual pizzazz to soak up here, from the camera work (which includes extended bits of fighting, unruined by nauseating shakycam antics), to the settings, to the martial arts and gunplay. The creative team has put together a world that's a lot of fun to visit.

I'm not a huge fan of Keanu Reeves in general, except when he finds a role that seems well-suited for his particular skills. He did that with "The Matrix," and he has done it again here with "John Wick." I hope that if there is a sequel--and I can't imagine why there wouldn't be--the creative team remains the same and everyone remembers what worked so well the first time around (and just as importantly, why). If that happens, I'm ready to follow John Wick wherever he goes next. If nothing else, it should be a wild ride.

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pickhut pickhut - February 09, 2015 (03:47 PM)
Just finished watching this today, and you're right in saying to view this as just a fun, violent action movie, because there will be disappointment if someone tries to find something deeper. I also did enjoy the "legend" of John Wick that everyone around him kept eluding to in the film, though I'm worried that, if they do make a follow-up, the writers would try too hard to explain his past. Sometimes mystique goes a long way with certain characters, and I think that works with John Wick himself.

Spoiler complaint below!

The biggest thing that bummed me out about the movie was how they never had a big battle within the hotel itself. Everyone in the movie made it an effort to mention how it's forbidden to have a fight there, so I was expecting something huge. Never happened. Maybe next time...
honestgamer honestgamer - February 09, 2015 (04:13 PM)
There was the one battle in the hotel, though, and that had its share of consequences, so I thought it worked well enough. I've since read that a sequel is in development for release in late 2016, and the main story they're considering is a prequel that would explain how John Wick was able to get out of the business. So... basically what you were worried they might try. I don't know how valid that rumor is, but the positive is that it would allow them to bring back much of the same cast, which for obvious reasons wouldn't work if they follow up by telling what happens next. Either way, I'm ready to see how it goes.
pickhut pickhut - February 09, 2015 (09:04 PM)

Well, I guess it could work if pulled off correctly, and I could understand it from a casting point of view, but I'm wishing for a sequel that deals with his life following the aftermath of the first film.
zigfried zigfried - February 09, 2015 (10:10 PM)
Great movie. That being said, I hope the sequel never materializes. Some movies shouldn't have sequels, and this is one of them.

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