John Wick (2014, dir. Chad Stahelski, David Leitch)

john wick

I remember seeing the trailer for John Wick a couple years ago and thinking “You can’t be serious. Because they killed his dog?” Now that I’ve seen the film, I sit here thinking…well, I’m not sure. The film tells the story of retired assassin John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves. His wife died suddenly and not long after he receives a dog that was her last gift to him. The dog is brutally killed by Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen), the son of a Russian crime boss, and this pulls Wick back into the game he thought he had left behind. Throw in supporting roles from a bevy of character actors: Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, Lance Reddick, and David Patrick Kelly (Warriors! Come out and play-ayyy!).

This film felt like a comic book. That is it felt like I picked up the collection of “John Wick Returns”, a mini-series wherein a popular crime comics character was brought back after an absence of a few years. The way we were introduced to the world and its inhabitants without tons of exposition to explain themselves, made me feel like this was a world I could go back and read about in other titles. Of all the places and characters the world was peppered with, I enjoyed the Continental, a hotel that caters exclusively to assassins and paid killers, the most. I also loved the sense of history John had with everyone. We have no idea what the details are to these connections, but it felt like there would be dozens of stories to tell. Marcus (Willem Dafoe), John’s mentor, held a lot history in his interactions with John and, like any good comic book universe, I am sure the equivalent of “John Wick Begins” detailing his training under Marcus would be amazing.

I would never say I was a huge action movie fan so I was not the target audience of this film. Not being an expert on the craft and technique behind movie fights, I thought everything felt realistic. Nothing John did was too incredibly unreal. If you’re used to more hyper-stylized fighting you might think this was a more toned down version, but it looks like the way someone like John Wick would really fight. It’s funny now that I think about it; the action which you would expect to be the exaggerated element is played fairly real while it’s the world building that goes over the top.

There’s definitely some nods to classic action directors: The shooting out of the glass walls made me think of John Woo. Wick is your archetypal silent, stoic killer along the lines of a lot of French noir crime films.The acting is fine. I didn’t see any performances that blew me away, everyone sort of knew who they were playing and did that. I always love seeing David Patrick Kelly in anything and I did really enjoy the mannerisms he brought to his “clean up crew” character.

There’s a sequel on the horizon and I’m interested to see what they do. This film really plays like “the final John Wick” story and the stakes used to pull him back into action are about as intense as they get. Something taking place before this would work but I would like to see this older, broken Wick continue however they decide it might work. This isn’t going to be one of my favorites of the year, but it is an enjoyable film that kept my attention the whole run time. If you enjoy films with sense of a deep, developed world then I definitely think John Wick will deliver.

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