John Wick: Simple, Mysterious, Fun
by Sam Brigham on Friday, February 20th, 2015
Sometimes simplicity is a good thing. While Chad Stahelski and David Leitch’s new action-thriller film, John Wick, may appear to appeal to a relatively narrow audience, I believe that fans of such a genre will embrace this film as one of their favorites. It may have slipped through the cracks a bit, but I believe it to be a very strong, enjoyable movie.
The film stars the versatile, mature, but ever-youthful Keanu Reeves as John Wick, a mysterious and austere ex-hitman whose past is largely concealed. At the beginning of the film, Wick has just lost his wife due to an unknown illness and appears chronically depressed. To blow off steam, he throttles around in his old Mustang Fastback, which attracts the attention of Iosef (Alfie Allen), the son of Russian gangster Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). Iosef proceeds to beat Wick, steal Wick’s car, and kill Wick’s new puppy, a posthumous gift from his wife. In response, an already-angry Wick embarks on a massive killing spree to avenge his losses and defend himself against men whom Viggo, his former employer, has sent to kill him. Wick ultimately wants only Iosef dead, but Viggo’s attempts to protect his son result in the deaths of dozens of his henchmen. Wick, aka “the Boogeyman” disposes of his enemies effortlessly and with style, never afraid to get his hands dirty. The fight scenes are intense, and choreographed brilliantly using varied urban settings that range from hotel rooms to seaports to bathhouses. Wick and his adversaries use an entertaining mix of gunfights and martial arts, sometimes defying seemingly fatal wounds.
While I enjoyed the movie’s action quite a bit, I can acknowledge that there is room for criticism and see that some people will not find the movie “wholesome.” Yes, there isn’t a great deal of character development or backstory, but to me that quality makes the movie’s feel all the more enticing. We viewers don’t know as much as we should about John Wick, but we tolerate that because the mysteriousness of his character fuels our enjoyment of the movie. We constantly want to find out who he really is, and while we get some glimpses of the people in his past, we never fully understand his identity, a style popularized by classic movies such as the Bourne Trilogy. In my opinion, this anonymity helps improve viewers’ experience as we understand that Wick is simply a very talented man who is on a quest for vengeance. Likewise, we don’t know that much about Viggo; he is portrayed as a generic gangster with Iosef being his generically spoiled son. The whole movie has a desirable simplicity to it in the story of a tormented man getting revenge on those who have wronged him. Some will like it, and some will not.
That being said, the acting is very good. Keanu Reeves portrays the mysterious and merciless John Wick very well, displaying little emotion or fatigue as he dispatches his enemies. Allen and Nyqvist play their parts convincingly too. However, one minor character struck me as having played his part extremely well: hotel manager Charon (Lance Reddick). He is the front desk worker for a hotel catering exclusively to assassins, and delivers his lines with an eerie calmness that constantly makes viewers wonder if he is hiding something, adding another level to the mysteriousness of the movie.
Overall, I would recommend John Wick to fans of action movies. You will be surprised by the quality of the fight scenes and the thrill of a mysterious man seeking vengeance. However, if you don’t enjoy intense action, or if you seek interesting character development, forget it.
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