Overview: Retired hitman John Wick uses gung-fu to avenge his dead dog. That either sold you on the movie or it didn’t. Lionsgate; 2014; Rated R; 96 minutes.
Bullet Point A to Bullet Point B: This is a straight forward action film with just the bare bones of a narrative to carry a story. We’ve got John Wick played by Keanu “Woah” Reeves. When a couple of thugs kill his dog, a last gift from his dying wife to help him during a grieving period, he comes out of retirement to drop the wrath of god onto those responsible. One villain refers to him coldly as “The guy you hire to kill The Boogeyman.”
Keanu Reeves is not the most versatile actor by any means but an effectiely-applied Keanu is on par with Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt in terms of star power. He embodies a man filled with rage, professionalism, and a commitment to doling out vengeance. He fits the bill and gets the job done.
It doesn’t matter how good an actor you are in an action movie if you don’t buy the actor in the action scenes. Keanu Reeves sells it like there’s a fire sale. The action is beautifully shot with each punch, kick, and head-shot being clearly visible. No shaky cam “technique” to be found here. The fight choreography is impressive. Director David Leitch was a stunt coordinator for over a decade (his best work can be seen in The Bourne Ultimatum) and wisely lets the action play out with smooth camera swoops and pans instead of the quick cut/choppy editing style many modern directors seem to favor. Leitch knows he has something special in the action here. He’s displaying artful action for everyone to see (He calls it gun-fu).
Killer World Building: While the simple story of John Wick is entertaining enough, there’s an interesting world built with the society of mobsters and hit men that is worth exploring. A heightened reality sets over the world of Wick. code of ethics is applied to these killers. Instead of tradition currency, the characters exchange gold coins. There is a hotel where all these crooks can assemble for amnesty and reprieve. And when the professional courtesy is broken… well, you’ll have to watch the movie for yourself.
Final Thoughts: John Wick will satisfy action junkies and likely make its way to “Cult Classic” status. I can’t wait to revisit this one.