John Wick


Reviewed by: Jane Fae

John Wick
"Engaging in approximately the same way that a shoot-em-up arcade game is engaging."

John Wick is slick, efficiently made...and violent. Very.

The plot is simple. Retired super hit-man/enforcer John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is grieving the death of his wife, finds temporary salvation in a puppy left as her final act of love to him. Bad guy, aka Russian Mafia, steals his car, kills puppy. John Wick kills bad guy. He kills bad guys’ brother and cousins. He kills bad guys’s friends, bodyguards, associates. Eventually he kills bad guy’s father. Occasionally good guys pop up to save John Wick from almost certain death. Good guys kill more bad guys. Bad guys kill the good guys.

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By the end of the film, there are approximately three guys left standing: John Wick (natch!) and various inhabitants from a strange, slightly camp underworld in which wise-cracking undertakers arrive to clean crime scenes in exchange for symbolic gold coin, and criminals, who otherwise would be out killing one another, dance the night away at the Continental, a hotel and nightclub designated neutral ground, under the velvet-glove of suave owner and enforcer Winston (Ian McShane).

There are women in this film but...blink and you’ll miss them. The exception is Adrianne Palicki, who turns up as a somewhat predictable beautiful-but-deadly female assassin. In another film – Nikita, say – she might have ruled. But this is John Wick’s story, so of course, she isn’t quite deadly enough.

After a while, the killing gets a bit monotonous: pretty much all from the bang-you’re-dead school of assassination. In his first encounter with the bad guys Wick puts down more mobsters than Liam Neeson takes out in the entirety of Taken: around nine shot, two stabbed, one strangled. And that really is just the beginning. There follows another hour or so of shooting, stabbing, strangling.

Nonetheless, there is wit in this film, especially in the first half: mostly in the sharp laconic answers by leading characters. Also in the surreal detail: the receptionist at the Continental ringing to politely inform Wick of complaints about the noise from his room (he has just subdued a particularly energetic hit woman).

There are good, intelligent performances from William Dafoe (hitman and friend of Wick), Michael Nyqvist (Russian Godfather) and the aforementioned Ian McShane, as well as an athletic performance from Reeves himself.

It is engaging, in approximately the same way that a shoot-em-up arcade game is engaging – and displays roughly the same level of emotional intelligence. That absolutely does not make it a “bad film”, though it might just be a “bad” film. The violence is disconcertingly comicbook, and I was, throughout, more than slightly perturbed by the moral compass that appeared to equate the death of a puppy, albeit a puppy loaded with such emotional baggage, with the ensuing slaughter.

My years beginning to show, perhaps? Age, equally to blame for finding the film just a little on the loud side. It is, of course, a given nowadays, that filmmakers will seek to engage viewers by turning the bass up loud...but in this case, there were times when it went a little too far for my liking.

Would I recommend going to see John Wick? Yes: providing the viewer has no illusions about what they are going to see. It will get the adrenaline flowing but, despite a brief and late attempt at philosophy from Michael Nyqvist, it won’t change your life.

Reviewed on: 27 Mar 2015
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A retired hitman pursues the men who killed the dog given to him by his dead wife.
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Director: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch

Writer: Derek Kolstad

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki

Year: 2014

Runtime: 101 minutes

Country: US


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