Are you a dog or cat person? I suspect that when it comes to moviegoers most film audiences prefer canines. How else can you explain that when a person dies in a flick no one cares, but if a pooch gets harmed the entire cinema goes mental? The makers of John Wick have tapped into this passion for mutts to divert attention away from how barebones their movie’s plot is. Guy takes on evildoers who have done him wrong? Yawn, how cliché. Huh, what’s that? The bad guys killed a puppy? How heinous! Okay, now I am invested. I can’t wait to see those jerks get their just desserts… and suffer they will because anyone foolish enough to pick on John Wick’s “doggie” is in for a ruff-ruff time.
John Wick is a former assassin who gave up the life of a contract killer after he found love and got hitched. Unfortunately for him his missus has since succumbed to the ravages of cancer. John would be alone now were it not for his adorable pet beagle Daisy, who was gifted to him by his departed wife. Some time after the funeral John decides to take his vintage Mustang out for a spin. The vehicle is thirsty for gas, after a cruise through a local airfield, so he decides to stop at a nearby petrol station. There he encounters a Russian mobster who expresses a desire to purchase John’s flashy automobile. Mr Wick declines the offer, but sadly for him the Ruskie gangster just won’t take no for an answer.
When dusk hits the above mentioned Mafioso breaks into John’s house accompanied by a group of henchmen. They proceed to rob John’s car, beating the titular hero to a pulp in the process. During the attack Daisy, who valiantly tries to defend her master, is also slain – tipping John over the edge. After exhuming a stash of firearms John sets off to claim retribution. New York’s most prominent criminal syndicate stands between John and his target, but that doesn’t matter. John is a one-man army who could reputedly take down the Boogeyman. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen that worm-munching wrestler in years. I guess it really is true that the Boogeyman fell to Wick’s badassery.
My rating for John Wick is four stars. Despite being a by the numbers revenge caper it manages to entertain thanks to its thrilling action set pieces. The film is directed by a pair of stuntmen and man does it show. Unlike other blockbusters you can actually follow what is going on and admire the stunning martial arts choreography. The flow of combat is not interrupted with quick cuts or shaky cam, which is a huge relief. Watching stuff like the Hunger Games can induce seasickness, as the director throttles the camera in order to disguise his cast’s lack of fighting prowess. Thankfully those tricks are not required when your movie is fronted by Keanu Reeves. Anyone who has watched the Matrix trilogy is well aware that Keanu is no slouch when it comes to fisticuffs.
Despite a modest twenty million dollar budget John Wick courts the services of several big name stars. Willem Dafoe makes an appearance as a veteran sniper and Ian “Lovejoy” McShane plays an affluent chap who owns establishments frequented by members of the underworld. Out of all the actors I especially liked hotel concierge Lance Reddick, as he made me chuckle on several occasions with his deadpan replies. Really, apart from the anaemic plot, the only thing I can criticize John Wick on would have to be its anticlimactic finale. After giving us spectacular car chases and a bloody nightclub based gunfight the whole thing culminates with Keanu beating up a geriatric guy. Well technically his opponent is only a few years older than John Wick, but Keanu looks a lot younger in comparison. In the words of Bill & Ted, Keanu looks “excellent” for his age.