The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
John Wick (Summit Entertainment)
Directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (uncredited)
Written by Derek Kolstad
John Wick feels like a classic 80’s action flick. Not great, by any means, but it delivers the goods with some really tight and fast Gun-Fu. Up close gun fights by the score. And it’s good fight choreography. The story of John Wick is the one where the lead is an impossibly, almost super-humanly, successful contract killer. Thinks he’s retired but somebody didn’t get the memo. You know the one. Keanu Reeves is that man. Keanu more than makes up for his Nicholas Cage School of Acting chops with his more than adequate stage-fighting and martial arts moves and skills. I like Keanu Reeves. I like when he does these Hong Kong style movies. You can tell he really respects the genre.
John Wick is a workable Kung Fu, gun play, fast cars, and brutal kills, action movie. But one where you can excuse the brutal kills because… well… because they kill his dog. There are lots of reasons to go on a bad guy killing spree but the most justified one would be if they killed your dog. And they set up the dog as really important to Wick’s peace of mind in the first five minutes, with more emotion than you get from the rest of the movie. But in my opinion, they really didn’t even have to do that. John Wick could have not even liked that dog. It’s just wrong. Bring out the guns.
But still they kill his dog and the body count after that is near infinite. Not a nuanced movie. There aren’t many complex emotions in John Wick. Just your run-of-the-mill revenge shoot-em-up. And there is always a place for a good revenge shoot-em-up on the cinematic landscape. John Wick is one of those movies. You judge it by the action. There are some decent action sequences in John Wick. These are damn near John Woo quality shoot-outs (but without the cool bullet-time slow-motion).
In John Wick they establish this underground world of assassins and criminals with rules of conduct and neutral non-aggression sites. John being the most infamous killer of them all, he strikes fear in the hearts of the underworld. So once John gets back in the game, he faces overwhelming numbers of assassins and mobsters coming at him from all sides. He goes into superhero mode. It’s a fun movie.
There are a bunch of good fight scenes in John Wick. And a bunch of good gun battles. Some witty banter, cool locations and satisfying kills. There’s not a lot to complain about as long as you’re not expecting a great deal of emotional depth. There’s none. But it’s not dumb. The fights are smart. The dialogue is smart. The cast is good with Ian McShane, Willem Dafoe and Adrianne Palicki as rival assassins. So, John Wick is a fun film.
Here are my five favorite Keanu Reeves action flicks: The Matrix (“I know Kung Fu.”), Point Break (“I am a FBI agent.”), Speed (“Pop Quiz, Hotshot.”), Man of Tai Chi (which he also directed) and now John Wick.
A good and exciting action film. Just not a great one.