A recently widowed man attempts to adjust to living without his wife, as his life is immediately changed when he becomes the victim of a brutal crime. As it turns out, the witless culprits were unaware of who they attacked, and it only causes the world’s largest headache for the Russian mafia. They didn’t know the man, but to say his name usually means your death. Oh, and there will be much death.
There is no doubt John Wick hits the ground running. Everything about the film is quick and efficient, from the editing to the fight choreography. Actually, it is so breakneck from the start, it can be confusing about the amount of time passed between key scenes. Directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski display sufficient knowledge behind the camera, thanks to their longtime careers as assistant directors and stuntmen. John Wick is a strong example of minimalism done right: everything is stripped to get at the meat of each scene. The physicality between each character is more akin to a slap happy kabuki or a bullet-riddled ballet.
The film is not without its humorous moments, thanks to some well-timed one liners, but most especially due to the most-cutest, adorable, gosh darn huggable puppy in the whole entire world! Seriously, if anything, you’ll want to adopt a rescue after you leave the theater, and pray it’s just as snuggle-licious as the awkward ball of furry energy you witnessed. *ahem* Anyway.
Reeves does retain his infamously stoic charm, yet that works impeccably in his portrayal of John Wick: In nearly every scene, one can detect the perpetual loneliness he feels; the barely controlled rage that spills forth in a hail of amazingly precise gunfire.
Adrianne Palicki (Agents of SHIELD) plays the perfect foil to Reeves’ Wick; the character of Ms. Perkins has no regard for the unwritten code Wick and his former associates abide. Given that Wick supposedly has no peer, the up-and-comer Perkins’ killer instinct clearly surpasses his, and the audience is treated to scenes between the two that intensify the visceral nature of the film. Also featured in a mock supporting role is Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Boondock Saints) as Wick’s closest friend and fellow assassin. It’s a bit of a departure from Dafoe’s usual fare, as he’s not flexing his trademark intensity so much as calmly sniping bad guys along the rooftops. This is one of the few areas where John Wick falls flat.
Despite having a solid cast from top to bottom, much of their talent is squandered in key scenes. In fact, some of these characters that deserve some fleshing out are seen for a few minutes, and never again. Ian McShaine, Lance Riddick, John Leguizamo, Clark Peters… these are actors who chew up scenes with great big smiles on their mouths, yet they’re here for a morsel. Granted, it would considerably slow down the rapid-fire pace of Wick, yet the subtle allusions to longstanding friendships and rivalries only make one wonder who they are to John.
That issue is nothing compared to the perplexing third act that crumbles under its own weight. What you expect to happen happens, then a few more things happen that lead to something rather anticlimactic… and that leads to something else that leaves the moviegoer not as excited as three scenes ago.
Among the slew of films that are only becoming more and more dependent on CG action scenes and city-wide destruction, John Wick is a welcome escape from typical Hollywood fare and a return to the cool. Basic in its premise, yet effective in its delivery, John Wick plays on our sentiment to the actioners of old, adding a flair and style that’s entirely its own.
John Wick is now playing in theaters.
Bring a counter to tally the number of headshots. Trust me, it’s a fun game.