So, we here in Ireland have been waiting a very, very long time for the home release of “John Wick”. I mean, it released in cinemas in the U.S. close to a year ago, but for whatever reasons it seems to have had significant distribution delays in Europe. Which was a shame, because this is one incredible action movie.
With Keanu Reeves taking the lead role taking the lead role as a retired hitman who has just lost his beloved wife to illness. An encounter with a Russian gang at a petrol station leads to him being beaten up, his car stolen, and the one thing connecting to his wife being lost. This pushes John Wick over the edge, and he makes one final return to his roots in order to seek bloody revenge on those who crossed him.
It may seem odd, reading this synopsis and not encountering what makes this film so fucking good. In essence, it mirrors a lot of the traits found in “Taken” though, and we all know what a great surprise that film turned out to be. And it is the same here – just a revenge action movie that that has been produced, directed, and performed to an exceptionally high standard. It is even more shocking to see Keanu Reeves back in an acting role, and just owning this film for himself. He is quite quiet and reserved, just a man grieving for his lost wife. But as things progress that dark inner self begins to show more and more, until he morphs into a relentless, brutal, and ruthless killer. But he always keeps that restrained touch to his performance that makes him someone you really want to root for. Reeves is spectacular, and this is the role we all wanted him to play since we knew he had it in him.
Other actors include Michael Nyqvist as the Russian gang leader, and Ian McShane who plays the owner of an assassin’s hotel. (how awesome and absurd an idea is that?) These two are particularly note-worthy for their performances as well, but really, there isn’t a bad actor in this film to speak of. Every person has a specific role with depth, and a goal they are working towards.
What doubles up and makes this even more enjoyable is the setup and payoff. Like “Taken” the beginning is devoted to giving the lead some genuine emotional character, you instantly feel for their tough position. And in here they REALLY do pull at your basic heartstrings. I did not expect to feel crushed before the first act had even ended. The build up in expectation after this is perfectly paced for the audience and helps click all the story beats together in a sensible and illustrative manner.
And then the payoff is a riot. Brutally efficient kills, blood spatters, bones breaking, and some of the best action editing you will see from a recent movie. It really does give a gallon-per-litre, eery time you think it has reached the peak another even more extreme kill smashes into the foreground. Of course, it helps too that Keanu is a seasoned martial artist and well used to performing his own stunts.
If I had any complaints to mention, I found the main song used several times in the film a bit weak, and the ending, though it is satisfactory and wraps things up nicely, is a tad hokey. But really, there is so much good going on in here that I haven’t even gone in depth into – the inter-twining of character’s relationships and goals, the beautiful aerial city shots, the mix of scenes where the action takes place, and the lack of any unnecessary fluff in the script to drag it down. Things have been simplified where this will make an improvement, and the dials have been amplified where you want them to.
“John Wick” is a movie that probably flew past people’s radar simply because it didn’t have a top name action star on the poster. But if you haven’t seen it yet, now is the time to do so. Yeah, right the fuck now. It is stylish, brutal, excellently performed, wonderfully shot, and has this underlying sizzle of energy that runs from start to finish. This is definitely going to become a cult favourite, and rightfully so.
Thanks for reading!