The writers never let the momentum slow and allow for plenty of amusing interactions between John Wick and his old hitman homies.
In the beginning there was James Bond, played by an array of suave, charismatic, and otherwise gentlemanly actors who each took turns serving as a cultural icon spanning half a century. Then came Jason Bourne, confused, haunted, and ruggedly handsome. The archetype of the action hero came to answer to the dawn of the superhero in the early 2000’s.
Now along comes Keanu Reeves as John Wick, even deadlier than 007, far more savage than Jason Bourne, and the new undisputed king of the action hero hill.
I used to think that the guy was one of the most wooden and tone deaf actors alive; there just didn’t seem to be a role that fit his deadpan and caveman-like delivery. But this is the role that Keanu was born to play and imbues this borderline psychopath and killing machine with an awkward vulnerability that makes John Wick one of the better anti-heroes in recent memory.
The plot is simple enough, John has been retired from his shooting-people-days for some years when his wife dies of cancer, leaving John reeling. His wife leaves him a dog to help with the grieving process, a tiny pup named Daisy. John and his new furry friend become thick as thieves and things start to look like they’re on an upswing for Mr. Wick. That is until masked men break into his house, steal his car, and kill his dog. As ex-hitmen are want to do, John takes it really personally and you can fill in the blanks from there.
That dog death is rough so if you’re particularly susceptible to that I’m not sure you’re gonna be able to stomach a movie as violent as this.
Violence rooted in themes of grief and hate generally doesn’t make for raucous entertainment but this movie puts any cape-wearing schlub’s origin story to shame in terms of sheer entertainment value. The rich backstories behind all of the characters ensure that even small encounters are rewarding, as John’s past exploits have grown men referring to him in hushed whispers as “the boogieman,” especially after an unsavory act with a pencil. John is royalty and a living legend in this underworld, and watching him wade through familiar waters elicits a vicarious kind of rush. Shot in deep blues with flashes of bright reds and golds the movie just oozes cool and comes off more as an old school noire than an exercise in gluttonous violence.
But that violence, man! When watching the fight scenes I found myself wincing, yelling, and nervously laughing as I disappeared into the gunfights with John Wick. The whole film builds around the death of his dog and never once did I question the ethics of Wick’s bloodletting.
Which made me feel weird about my moral compass. In a good way, I think.
As heavy as all this probably sounds, the writers never let the momentum slow and allow for plenty of amusing interactions between John Wick and his old hitman homies.