"John Wick" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Throughout cinematic history, there have been numerous memorable and badass assassins and action heroes. From those like Terminator to John McClane, these action stars are a lot of fun to watch on the screen and always deliver an enjoyable time for audiences. However, I don't think there really has been an action hero like Keanu Reeve's John Wick. The first film of this franchise doesn't just deliver a badass action hero in the form of an assassin who is forced out of retirement, but an extremely enjoyable revenge film that is action-packed and has a great story.
The movie opens up on John, who is watching his wife progressively sicker and sicker before her untimely death. After her funeral, he receives a puppy, a posthumous gift from his wife to hopefully make the transition without her much easier. Now with his new puppy and his beloved Mustang, John is adjusting to his new life without his wife. However, when a group of young Russian men break into his house and not only steal his car, but beat him to a pulp and kill his poor puppy. They think it's just a harmless man and nothing bad will happen to them.
When the leader of that group, Iosef (Alfie Allen), informs his father Viggo (Michael Nyqvist) what he had done, his father informs him that he wronged one of the most deadly and feared hitman in the entire business. Nicknamed Baba Yaga, Viggo also informs him that Wick will not stop until he gets his revenge, taking out his son and everyone else that has wronged him. What ensues is a chaotic, action-packed revenge tale, with John not stopping until he is able to avenge his dog and get his car back, the only things he truly has left in this life.
I would go as far as to say Reeves was born to play this role. Everything about this character and Reeves' performance is spot-on and is easily one of the best action heroes in cinematic history. He is crafted as this emphatic character that is trying to get back what he has lost. He can never get back his wife or his dog, but he thinks if he gets revenge on these people, it will make up for it. And, even though going out of his way to kill people aggressively and gruesomely should never be condoned, the viewer finds themselves rooting for this character and wanting them to get their revenge on these evil people. It is very easy to emphasize with him, and Reeves is just excellent at achieving this desired reaction from the audience. He practically does everything right when playing this character, and I would arguably say this is hands-down the best role of his career.
On a story level, I think this movie just effortlessly does everything right. It spins a story of revenge flawlessly, and is just a very engaging and entertaining movie. They are able to easily set up the entire conflict very early into the movie, and from there, it starts moving at a very nice pace. The movie never seems to run out of steam and never really drags at any portion of the movie. I applaud the filmmakers because I think this is one of the few action movies to never really have a slow part in the movie.
The action sequences are absolutely incredible and really brings the viewer into the movie. They're shot very nicely, and I think the stunt coordinators do a fantastic job of staging all the fighting and gunplay. Reeves does many of his own stunts here in this picture, and I have to applaud him for the grueling exercises and action sequences he had to perform here. The gunplay and hand-to-hand combat seems very lifelike, especially with the glorious use of blood and gore. It feels like we are actually watching a graphic action sequence in real life, and the entire movie feels like this. I honestly have had some of the most fun in an action film here watching John Wick justifiably take down these bad guys.
One aspect I also really enjoy about this movie is how it sets up a whole universe around this character and really opens it up for other characters in future installments. From aspects like the Continental Hotel, complete with manager Winston (Ian McShane) and bellhop Charon (Lance Reddick) to the inclusion of other gangs and crime syndicates, it really feels like our character is just a small piece of this huge crime world, which is really interesting and enjoyable to explore and learn more about. It never really feels forced or too much; it seems like they added the perfect amount of details to explore later on after this first film.
As a whole, I think this is easily one of the best action films in modern time, perhaps even in the entirety of cinema. Everything is just so well done and methodical that it feels effortless and allows the viewer to sit back and have a good time with this character and the chaos that ensues. I love everything that Reeves and the filmmakers do with this film, and it's obvious this franchise will go down as one of the best action franchises of all time.