Lionsgate/Entertainment One Films/Warner Bros. Pictures
Directed by Chad Stahelski
Produced by Basil Iwanyk, David Leitch and Eva Longoria
Written by Derek Kolstad
Music by Tyler Bates/Joel J. Richmond
Cinematography by Jonathan Sela
Edited by Elisabet Ronalds
Those of you who are dog lovers should be advised that there is a fairly graphic murder of a dog in JOHN WICK. I feel obligated to mention this because while many of you have no problem going to see a movie where human beings are machine gunned to pieces, stabbed, blown-up, incinerated and otherwise killed in all sorts of horrible ways, you would have a stroke right there in the theater seeing a dog get killed on screen. But you should also know that the title character more than gets revenge for the murder for his dog. Does he ever. JOHN WICK has one of the highest body counts I’ve seen in an action movie recently. In fact, considering all the property damage, killings and general mayhem John Wick (Keanu Reeves) commits during the course of the movie you kinda understand how one of the bad guys feels when he screams out just before taking a bullet in the forehead; “It was just a @#$%^& DOG!”
But it wasn’t “just a dog.” That’s the point. It was the last gift given to John by his late wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) as a way to help him cope with his grief. She knew she was dying from cancer and arraigned to have the dog delivered to him after she was gone. The dog, named Daisy is a victim of a home invasion committed by Iosef Tarasov, (Alfie Allen) would be Russian gangster. John had an altercation with Iosef at a gas station earlier as Iosef wanted to buy John’s vintage 1969 Mustang. Iosef and his two cohorts break into John’s house, steal his car and kill Daisy.
Turns out that John Wick is well known to Iosef’s daddy, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) who is a Real Russian gangster. In fact, he’s the head of the New York branch of the Russian Mafia and he tells his idiot son that he wouldn’t be where he was if it wasn’t for the lethal abilities of John Wick. “You make him sound like The Boogeyman,” Iosef sneers.
“He’s not,” his father replies. “He’s the guy you send to kill The Boogeyman.”
Viggo tries to talk John out of killing his son but he might as well try to reason with a tsunami. John proceeds to tear through Viggo’s men with a frightening, cold-blooded precision, upping the stakes of the game until Viggo has no choice but to place a $2 million bounty on John’s head. A bounty that attracts the attention of two of his old friends: Marcus (Willem Dafoe) and Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) assassins whose skills are just about equal to John Wick’s…
Besides the high-octane shootouts and truly suspenseful hand-to-hand combats, JOHN WICK really delightedly me with its suggestion of a larger world outside of the movie that we were watching. A world where professional assassins and contact killers operate under an extraordinary code of rules that if broken mean instant death. Gold coins inscribed with arcane sigils aren’t used for currency. They’re mystical talismans that open secret doors and act as passports and letters of transit. One of the most fascinating concepts in the movie is The Continental, a New York hotel that apparently caters only to assassins. Owned by Winston (Ian McShane) and managed by Charon (Lance Reddick) The Continental is fascinating enough to deserve a movie of its own and reportedly we will be getting a television series about this establishment.
Besides the actors already mentioned we’re also got John Leguizamo, Dean Winters, Clarke Peters, Kevin Nash and David Patrick Kelly showing up in what are essentially glorified cameos with the exception of Winters, who plays Viggo’s right hand man and gets more mileage out of a running gag about his inability to understand Russian than the gag deserves but he makes the payoff worth it. And I like Keanu Reeves a lot as an action star. Always have. I really don’t understand the hate for him as he’s always impressed me as a guy who has no pretensions about what he does. He makes movies for a living and he does it the best he can. And he does a great job here. He understands that in an action movie it’s his job to be the calm center and let the action revolve around him and that’s just what he does.
JOHN WICK is the latest entry in what I perceive as a return to the 1980’s Action Movie. We’ve had a lot of them lately. The “Taken” movies. The “Expendables” movies. The “Raid” movies and there’s a handful of others such as Sylvester Stallone in “Bullet In The Head” and Kevin Costner in“Three Days To Kill.” Like those films, JOHN WICK is a B-Movie with an A-Movie budget and cast and it worked for me. It’s got a basic plot that’s just enough to get the movie going and once it does it served up enough full tilt boogie action to satisfy the action junkie in me. It’s stylish and just a little bit surreal. Highly Recommended.