John Wick (18)
Directed by: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch (uncredited)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist & Alfie Allen
Running time: 101 min
If this is what we can expect from Keanu Reeves in the future, where do I sign up? Considering the versatility of an actor, who went from high-school 80s airhead, to wood-but-effective sci-fi megastar and then surprisingly insightful documentary maker, you never know quite what to expect with Reeves.
But the fears are alleviated entirely once John Wick kicks into gear. The now 50-year-old Reeves plays the titular role, a former mob ultra-enforcer out early to enjoy a quiet, peaceful life with his wife, Helen (Bridget Moynahan). However, when Helen dies suddenly of a serious, yet peculiarly unspecified, illness, Wick is left as a broken man, wallowing in a pit of despair.
However, his spirits are uplifted by the delivery of a puppy on his doorstep, whom his wife ordered for Wick before she died. Knowing that her death was imminent, she arranged to have this adorable pup delivered to help Wick through his mourning. The bond between man and dog is instant and powerful; they cuddle up in bed and speed down airstrips in Wick’s outrageously cool 1969 Mustang.
But, once again, the only source of happiness in Wick’s life is taken away from him when a bunch of Russian thugs, led by Iosef (Alfie Allen), spot the car and puppy at a gas station. After a tense exchange between Wick and the ruffian, man and pup return home only for the gang to break into the house, kill the puppy, leave Wick as a bruised and battered mess on the floor and steal his car.
From that point, it is quickly established that Wick was formerly one of the most devastating and ruthless contract killers around. After Iosef attempts to sell the Mustang to car shop owner Auerlio (John Leguizamo), he strikes the thief when he finds out who he had stole it from. Iosef, whose father Viggo (Michael Nyqvist) is a mafia kingpin, threatens to have Aurelio killed for striking him but the following exchange illustrates the climate of fear created from getting on the wrong side of Wick
Viggo: I heard you struck my son. May I ask why?
Aureilo: Because he stole John Wick’s car and killed his dog.
The resultant scenes are a thrilling blend of stylish violence and expertly choreographed action that flows effortlessly to the conclusion. The film’s opening establishes the character of Wick effectively and leaves the second half of the 93-minute duration purely to escalating the kill count.
Wick’s revenge mission crackles with a great kinetic energy, as he shoots his way through neon nightclubs and mafia-occupied churches in the hunt for Iosef. Veteran Hollywood stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch make their directorial debut in preposterously entertaining fashion, constructing a variety of spectacular hunting playgrounds for Wick to roam. The cinematography too, is utterly masterful. Bleak and breathtaking, from the neon glow during Wick’s nightclub rampage to the swooping, extensive shots of New York’s skyscrapers, the look of the film really does stand out as a triumphant element.
Truly fascinating however, is the intriguing universe the film is set in. It is one where professional hitmen live by a strict code, get paid in mysteriously large gold coins and stay at the absurdly opulent Continental Hotel. Everybody appears to know Wick, and they all fear him for a good reason. From bouncers to bellmen, there is an awareness of Wick’s profession that elevates the plot beyond merely mid-budget action.
Ultimately, John Wick is an rip-roaring, ridiculously fun action thriller that resonates deeper than the vast majority of action films you’re likely to see this year. It’s a wonderfully stylish, exhilarating romp that ranks high in Reeves’ diverse filmography.
4 out of 5 nerds