John Wick (2015)

John Wick (2015)

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Nobody messed with his Pop Tarts.

Twitter Plot Summary: A group of young gangsters get more than they bargained for when they target John Wick. Because he used to be a trained killer.

John Wick’s having a bit of a bad time. Shortly after his wife’s death, a package arrives – a puppy. Within what seems like minutes he’s set upon by Russian mobsters who steal his car and do the unthinkable. You know what I mean – that rule about never hurting animals in a film’s story is gleefully ignored.

But it turns out that Wick is more than he seems. Turns out he’s an infamous contract killer and he will stop at nothing to get revenge against Alfie Allen and his father’s band of Russian miscreants. Thus, the story is a simple case of watching Wick tear his way through the bad guys in his quest for vengeance.

Why does John Wick work? It’s a combination of things. Not only is the story of underworld assassins gradually fed to the audience as things develop, but it’s almost non-stop action. Action that is never boring but is instead well choreographed and presented in an almost effortlessly stylish manner. It even manages to break Keanu Reeves away from the usual complaints that are aimed at his acting abilities. His occasional monotone voice suits the character, and it’s not as if he’s called upon to talk all that much.

Kudos too for the script making the decision to have the characters run out of bullets and have to reload when the clip runs out – a minor detail missing from almost every action film ever made – although in some cases it adds to the fun. Wick is a fallible action hero, not immune to bullets or being stabbed now and again. Yet he still gets back up and continues pressing forward until the job is done.

On that note, there is an equal balance between light and dark moments, an element of knowing self awareness that doesn’t jump the shark into self parody. Grittier elements meet with the weird and wonderful, standard action tropes subverted yet joyfully adhered to. It’s a balance that filmmakers often find difficult to get right, but thankfully it’s something that Chad Stahelski has got spot on in this case.

Guess what's going to happen next. Go on.
Guess what’s going to happen next. Go on.

Reeves is supported by a great cast. Willem Defoe, Adrianne Palicki and Ian “Lovejoy” McShane appear as members of the exclusive assassin’s club Wick is a member of, with Lance Reddick appearing in a minor role as that hotel’s concierge. Alfie Allen meanwhile, the target of Wick’s ire, gets to do his impressive smarmy bad guy persona but doesn’t have much to do beyond that and run around looking scared.

As modern action films go, this is up there with the best. Almost everything about it works a treat and while there isn’t much depth to the story itself, there’s enough there to keep things moving forward and more than enough action to keep everyone satisfied. It would be great to see a sequel which, it seems, is likely to happen. This more than anything else is the biggest surprise, and for once providing a sequel that people actually want to see. Well done, John Wick.

Score: 3.5/5

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