Fate returns the world’s most feared assassin back into a game he never should have left. Keanu Reeves is John Wick, who escaped the world he once lived as an assassin, to become a loving husband in the real world.
Now mourning the death of his wife from cancer, Wick attempts to gather the pieces of his life with the help of a puppy his decease wife gave to him. All Wick has left in his life is his house, vintage car and puppy. This is what we call a quick set-up to jump start a character’s motivation for an action movie.
During a random gas station visit, Wick encounters Iosef Tarasof (Alfie Allen), the son of the Russian mob boss, Viggo Tarasof (Michael Nyqvest), who takes a fancy to Wick’s classic Mustang. This is the arbitrary event that sets the “stone” rolling. In a late night home invasion, Iosef steals Wick’s car, beats Wick to an inch of his life and kills the puppy. And now, everything we need to justify all the violence we’re about to witness in the next 70 minutes.
John Wick is light on plot and heavy on action. Action movies are a “dime-a-dozen” and it’s necessary to set your movie from the rest. A good action movie requires tent poles moments connecting the deadly action. Start with the revelation to mob boss, Viggo, hearing the news that his son “pissing off” the wrong person. The shot cuts to Viggo, then the slow zoom and finally the look of defeat in his eyes, knowing that he’s going to die at the end. The movie effectively uses this moment with only words and reaction to explain that John Wick is a badass killer even though he has yet to kill anyone in the movie.
Good stories are rarely necessary in an action film. Writer/Directors David Leich and Chad Stahelski effectively use story to heighten the quality of coolness. For example, they created a world of assassins. A world, where its members have honor, codes of conduct and a healthy dose of backstabbing. The movie takes place in New York City and centers on the Continental Hotel. The Continental is a haven for assassins and run by the owner, Winston (Ian McShane) and the hotel manager, Charon (Lance Reddick). The Continental is where assassination business conducted and meet in safety. There are rules too, like no killing on property.
Great action is a must in a great action movie. Director Stahelski does employ the overused shaky cam, but it’s less shaky, allowing us to actually see the action. Longer continuous shots replace the nauseating quick shot showing Keanu actually trained to make this movie. Visually, filmmakers apply a good balance of graphic dismemberment and implied gore. A nice variety “arenas” breaks up the monotony often associated with common action films. Death finds its theater in a quiet home of Wick, a warehouse, a church and a crowded night club.
John Wick is a very simple story of revenge. Keanu Reeves plays the role of admirably after a long absence from the action drama. Leich and Stahelski find numerous comedic moments for us to rest from the action including a hilarious moment when the local police visit Wick’s home fresh off a killing spree. Well-staged and filmed actions sequences make this movie refreshing and unique enough to rise above the constant stream of action movies force fed to moviegoers every year.