John Wick Review
Movie trailers are supposed to give us a taste of the vibe of a movie. We get a general sense of the tone of film and can sometimes judge fairly accurately, whether or not the movie will be any good. There are some times though, when trailers do not do a film justice. The ones put out for John Wick
were such that you felt the movie would be in the B or C range. I certainly felt that way upon viewing the trailers for this film. However, while it does have B movie sensibilities, they are elevated by how well the action is executed.
This is a much better film than it looks to be. The very definition of a strong action film. The story is not overly complex in fact, it is very straightforward in the way it deals with Keanu Reeves' Wick as a former hitman who has recently lost his wife. Unlike many revenge-themed action films, this is not the inciting incident. It is when his dog is brutally attacked by ruthless thugs connected to Wick's past, that things get rolling.
Keanu Reeves is perpetually in a strange place these days when it comes to action films in a post-Matrix
world. When you look at films like Constantine
or the more recent 47 Ronin
, while both of which have their followings, they are not even close to any of the Matrix
movies. John Wick
however, is. Reeves seems to have brought himself back to the fore in a very good way with this film, which is actually one of his strongest actioners since the Matrix
films. Not just action wise either, but in terms of his acting. Now, Oscar level acting usually is not what you get or even expect in a film like this, but Reeves actually brings great seriousness and verisimilitude to his role, which was surprising to see. He also brings a dry sort of humor, which balances out the more serious parts and keeps the film fun.
Other actors, like Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Michael Nyqvist and Adrianne Palicki turn in delightfully fun performances that are not too over-the-top, but rather strike just the right tone here. They all look as if they are having a ball, particularly Palicki, who is no stranger to action flicks with pictures like Red Dawn
and G.I. Joe: Retaliation
to her credits. It is a shame that she isn't around for a little longer because she is strongly drawn out.
There is fantastic, and very stylized action throughout this picture. It is well choreographed, well executed, well shot and well edited. It is not overly polished and knows how to get down and gritty in a way that feels like an updated version of the exploitation flicks of the 1970s and early 80s. Films like Death Wish
or even the Dirty Harry
movies come to mind. The gunplay is probably the most innovative I have seen since maybe Equilibrium
or even Wanted
. Yet, there is a simplicity to how the gunplay works that makes it quite effective. It feels like the gun is an extension of a hand or a foot. I dare say, that a new martial art has been created. Gun-fu, as I have seen it called, seems appropriate. I would not be surprised to see other action flicks trying to do similar things.
The direction by Chad Stahelski, who was a stunt double for Reeves on The Matrix
, is very well done. This being his first outing as a director, he provides a fine offering in the action genre. Stahelski, coming from a stunt background, naturally gets the action right and might give one the impression that his first directorial effort would jump straight into the action as quickly as possible. Surprisingly though, there is some time taken before things get rolling, which actually goes against what we understand for the more traditional B-movie where you are not allowed enough meat to really connect to the character and why what he lost is such a big deal. Stahelski somewhat deliberately allows things to breathe and develop, particularly in the first act, to solidly establish the characters and the world. Much like Antoine Fuqua did throughout the recent, The Equalizer
, but to a lesser extent. Stahelski demonstrates here, that he might have the makings of a decent director. Time will tell.
This movie won't win any awards or even be nominated for any, but it is definitely everything you hope for in an honest to goodness action flick that does not pretend to be something it isn't. There are surprising soft spots and some solid scenes of dry humor, which are nice touches that serve as side dishes to the main course, which is the fun, stylized and violent action. For an entertaining time at the movies this weekend, definitely catch John Wick