John Wick is the best American action film I’ve seen in recent memory and you should see it if you like action movies. Now, after that, I also have to point out that the two big qualifiers in that statement are “American” and “if you like action movies”.
There’s not much too John Wick. It’s an action film about a mob/mafia hit man that’s left his job behind him for a woman. At the very beginning of the film we see that she’s passed away and left him with a dog to help him grieve. After the son of his old employer kills his dog and steals his car, John goes on a revenge rampage using the skills that made him a legendary killer. Like most classic action movies, the fate of our “hero” is never really in question. The only real question is how many people he’s going to kill before the movie ends and how awesome is it going to look when he does it.
This is a movie directed by stuntmen and action directors who’ve worked on everything from the Matrix to the Avengers. So, you have an idea what you’re getting in terms of quality with the action scenes. The big difference between this project and their previous work is that they’re completely in control of what’s going on. The result is an action movie made by people who produce action for people who like action movies. The 4 sentences I wrote for the plot really do sum up what goes on in the movie. Yes, there are some other characters (mostly assassins or mobsters) that are introduced, but they’re really just a means to create more fight scenes.
This movie’s actually full of recognizable faces. Willem Dafoe and Andrianne Palicki are featured as Marcus and Ms. Perkins; two members of the mercenary society that Wick used to belong to. Dafoe is delightful as always and Palicki is actually in the best one-on-one fight in the entire movie. Bridget Moynahan appears as Wick’s deceased wife, Helen. John Leguizamo is in a few scenes as a chop shop owner with ties to the Russian mob. Bridget Regan (who’s one of my favorite guest stars on USA’s White Collar) gets a bit part as a flirtatious bartender. Of course, the biggest feature goes to Wick’s target Iosef. This unfortunate soul is played by Game of Throne’s Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), who’s apparently just good at playing pricks who are gonna have to pay. Aside from just being recognizable, everyone actually delivers decent performances in this film. It’s nothing world changing, but it’s perfect for an action movie. Keanu Reeves’ delivers a strong performance. However, it should be noted that he doesn’t have to do a lot of dramatic acting since his character is the strong silent type. Now he does have one big emotional scene that he does really well, but it’s not like people are coming to this movie for the drama.
The real reason anyone’s coming to this movie is to see the action. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not the movie delivers on that front. What I will say is that the action is plentiful and violent. Wick uses, what people are describing as “Gun Fu”. However, Gun Fu styles are almost as diverse as actual Kung Fu styles. The one linking characteristic is that it always features guns. Wick’s version of Gun Fu seems to involve a lot of elements grappling as opposed to the acrobatics or punching/kicking styles that have been used in other films. People familiar with grappling styles will likely notice a lot of the transitions and moves that are interspersed between the head shots and neck breaks. While the action is very elaborate and very smoothly choreographed, I have to be honest and say that some of it just didn’t work for me. While it was cool to see the grappling elements included in the movie, I couldn’t help but think that a lot of the grappling/transition sequences where so elaborate that they bordered on ridiculous. Still, I have to think that I’m being overly critical because I actually have a martial arts background that includes grappling. It’s just something that I couldn’t personally ignore and it took me out of the movie a little bit.
The martial arts style didn’t take me out of the movie so much that I couldn’t enjoy it. I already said that it’s the best American action movie I’ve seen in a while. I did really enjoy the way they used the legendary status of John Wick to pain the picture of this “boogeyman”. Even if they did do it by completely bastardizing the folktale of Baba Yaga. The idea of Wick basically being a monster was a lot of fun and really well executed. In a movie that didn’t have a lot to speak of in the way of plot, it was elements like that and the entire underground community of assassins that made it interesting aside from just watching the action. So, while I do have mixed feelings about the movie personally, I would say that this movie is definitely worth going to see if you wanna sit back, relax, and watch some people get killed.