Our second instalment in the Retrospective Review segment is the 2014 gritty, hard hitting John Wick. If you don’t know what this film is about then where have you been for the last 2 years?! I let you off though as I only saw the film for the first time last week.
The Chad Stahelski directed film pulls no punches in terms of action and emotion at times, which is surprising as its leading man, Keanu Reeves, is famous for not being able to portray any other emotion other than confused, or angry confused! Please don’t take that to mean I dislike Mr Reeves, the reality is the complete opposite. There are very few of his films which I dislike and I’m so happy that he sees to be having a resurgence in acting roles and popularity in recent years.
In terms of plot there is not much to speak of. Reeves plays a seemingly simple ‘Everyman’ whose wife dies of cancer. Not having any children, his wife had arranged that after her funeral a puppy would be delivered to him for companionship. Seeing Reeves break down in grief genuinely pulls on your heartstrings and even through the sequences leading up to the dog arriving are brief, you feel instantly connected to the character and completely understand what he is feeling.
This is what makes what happens next barbaric and deep long hurtful. A brief interaction with some young Russians at a petrol Station results in them braking into his house, beating the crap out of him, stealing his car and worst of all, killing his dog in front of him! Ooh did they choose the wrong person to mess with.
We very quickly learn tha John is not who he appears to be. The lead Russian played by Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones), when boasting about the car he just boosted, learns that John Wick used to be one of the deadliest hitmen in the business. He only left the game after falling in love and now the last remaining gift from his wife has been taken from him!
Daddy Russian (Michael Nyqvist) puts the fear of God into his son and even tries to smooth things over with John. When that fails he sends a hit squad over to John’s house but they are easily dispatched by a man out for revenge.
From this point on you can turn your brain off and just enjoy the action. We are treated to a one man war with some incredible gun play and hand-to-hand action sequences. I do think this is some of the best action I have seen in recent years. It’s fast paced, hectic and even though he is the hero you are never completely convinced he is going to make it out alive. The odds are always against him!
The film does try to add a little more backstory with the whole ‘Assassin Hotel’, a place where people in the job can stay and not have to worry about being taken out, the Switzerland of Hitmen if you will. I wouldn’t mind seeing a film about how that place came to be or maybe some of John’s early days at this place but I doubt we will get anything like that.
The Russians put a bounty on John’s head that some Assassin’s are willing to break the rules, Adrianne Palicki (Agents of SHIELD) in particular. Money is the motivator but John manages to take her out, with the help of another assassin played by Willem Dafoe, who at this point we thought he was trying to take John out himself.
The club scenes are my favourite. An almost unending wave of nameless henchmen are sent after John but with ruthless efficiency he ends them all. He’s not subtle, he kills and moves on. Except when he wounds someone, reloads, fires an kill shot then carries on. I didn’t think I would laugh out loud at any point in this film but I did right then!
You understand the fear Alfie Allen’s character has when he is finally confronted by John, who by the way has just taken out an entire fortress of guards specifically takes with protecting the kid. Unlike many revenge movies, John doesn’t stand over the victim reciting the reasons for killing him, or engage in a bare knuckle fight displaying how manly they both are, he just walks up to him cowering on the floor, shoots him then walks away. So cold but awesome!
The film should have ended there. Daddy Russian gave John his son’s location but has now regretted it. Taking out John’s friend Willem Dafoe, he taunts John into a fight. After a lot more shooting, some of which involved moving vehicles and handbrake turns (another incredible action scene) John and Daddy Russian engage in some fisty cuffs, in the rain as well!
This is the most ridiculous fight scene ever. There is no way Nyqvist could beat Reeves in a fight but I guess they are relying on the fact that John is badly wounded to balance he fight out. Needless to say John wins by unexpectedly stabbing himself in the chest to gain leverage with which to over power his opponent. In a typical heroic way of course.
The film ends with John breaking into the veterinary station and the Docks to treat his wounds. Taking some supplies to keep him alive he also takes a dog! That’s someone’s property JOHN! Just because yours got shot doesn’t mean you can go around stealing animals!! But the dog has been confirmed to be back for the sequel!
I really enjoyed this film but do acknowledge that it is isn’t a masterpiece. The action was great, the role was perfect for Keanu Reeves and I can’t wait to see the second outing for the reluctant Assassin which comes out later this year.
And in the meantime, go check out the videos on YouTube of Keanu Reeves practicing his gun combat, they are awesome!
There was quite a range of well known actors involved too. The aforementioned Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki and Alfie Allen were joined by Toby Leonard Moore (Marvel/Netflix Daredevil), John Leguizamo and Ian McShane! Great to see so many recognisable faces all clearly having a great time filming. Reeves steals the scene every time he is on screen and you can see the drive his character has. Don’t get on his Wick! ………I refuse to apologise for that pun!
John Wick gets 3 beans our of 5 on the Geekstalk!
Seen the film? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below.