It opens with a bloody, possibly dying John Wick (a bearded, semi-longhaired Keanu Reeves) stumbling out of a car… Then we flash back to a few days earlier, with John Wick being haunted by memories of his recently deceased wife. He’s now all alone in the world, until a dog is delivered to his house, a gift from his wife from beyond the grave. So when some motherfuckers kill the poor thing, no wonder John goes into a vengeful fury.
The dog-killing motherfuckers turn out to be Russian mobsters, but that’s OK because John Wick happens to be a former hitman affiliated with that very Russian mob. It’s a bit of a running gag in the film how, save for the fools who unwittingly crossed him, everybody in the criminal underworld knows John Wick and fears him. He even gets talked about in what Vern calls a “Just how badass is this guy?” speech, with mob boss Viggo (Michael Nyqvist) notably saying that “he’s not the Boogeyman – he’s the man you send to kill the Boogeyman!”
It takes a while to set all this up, but once things get going, watch out! “John Wick” proves to be the kind of old-school action flick that’s all too rare these days, an ultra-violent ride with a ridiculously high bodycount. John Wick not only has a name that invokes the Holy Trinity of 80s Hollywood Action Heroes (John Rambo, John Matrix and John McClane), he’s also got the skills to deserve to be mentioned along with them. It’s a thrill to watch him shoot and stab countless bad guys, while also getting into a few messy hand-to-hand fights and doing some crazy car stunts.
The screenplay by Derek Kolstad is not devoid of B-movie cheesiness, but it provides a decent structure for first-time director Chad Stahelski, a former stuntman who famously was Keanu Reeves’ double in “The Matrix”, to orchestrate a series of effective set pieces, well choegraphed, slickly shot and set to a guitar-heavy, quasi-industrial, faux-NIN score by Tyler Bates and Joel Richard.
What more can I say? You probably know already whether this is your kind of movie or not. Are you into watching Keanu Reeves kill endless people during an hour and a half? If so, don’t miss “John Wick”!