Dir: Chad Stahelski
Screenplay: Derek Kolstad
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyquist, Alfie Allen , Dean Winters
Released by: Lionsgate
Running time: 101 mins
A feared ex-assassin is roused into a revenge spree by the actions of an obnoxious sociopath brat who does not begin to realise the giant he has awoken.
A recently widowed man, John Wick (Reeves) is introduced through a brief synopsis in which we learn of his bereavement, desire for solitude, and his clear difficulty in processing his grief. His wife has died of what we learn, via a V.O introduction to a parting gift, is a terminal illness.
During a trip home from a unique attempt at catharsis, he encounters flash thugs who try to intimidate him into selling his beautiful car. He demonstrates in a minimal way that intimidated is not a road he walks down and the parties involved depart. The dented vanity of the young thug (Allen) leads to a violent altercation which culminates in a heartbreaking act of brutality. This forces the widow into action with the idea of brutal revenge fuelling his fire.
After the parties involved all realise what has happened and who it has happened to, all begin to prepare and anticipate. It is clear through the exposition, that this is a man of formidable ability and unmatched skills. The crime-boss father of the thug he is searching for attempts to broker a peaceful end but it is never an option and thus our hero begins his search and destroy itinerary.
Traversing through a world he is highly respected in as well as being feared. we are introduced to the underworld of the hitman and through gentle exposition learn the rules and the makeup, as well as the reasons for John's capability. The allies, enemies, and acquaintances intertwine in the culmination and the story is as complete as any other well-known Keanu Reeves picture about an unstoppable figure. However, it appears sequels are in line for afterwards.
Though it is a case of this being a perfectly solid action picture. We have a strong cast. The only member of the Allen family (we are NOT fans of daddy or sister Lil here) that has chosen hard work and application rather than the bare minimum of effort and vacuous political statements that give new meaning to the phrase "ill-informed. It is great to see Dean Winter back looking deadly as ever. We all remember him as the despicably sexy Ryan O Riley from Oz. Willem Dafoe is sadly underused for a star of his calibre but he tunes in well.
The action is first-rate. The phrase "Gun-Fu" is now movie lore and this deserves its status as the birthplace. The cinematography of Jonathan Sela (you can see Deadpool 2 here as well!) combined with rolling camera edits are splendid to aid the ingestion of the non-stop action. The nightclub and darkness make it a cameraman's nightmare but the team rides it well.
The music and soundtrack keep you fully in sync with the tempo and the choice of Marilyn Manson's Killing Strangers as a repeated accompaniment was inspired and fits like an assassin's glove.
The cute little forays into the mysterious world are subtle and engaging. The fixers who clean up, a nod to Nikita, but with its own identity. They have their own form of currency in gold coins of a predetermined but unrevealed amount or exchange rate. The Continental Hotel is a haven where business deals may be fixed, wounds may be treated, and information may be bought, as well as social interactions without a watchful eye on the door, all away from prying civilian and law-enforcement eyes. The only rule is no killing or violence is to be conducted. An interesting and subtly exposed side-attraction that would be a welcome addition to the sequel.
There are a few holes. The fact that this hitman is called "Baba Yaga" which we are told translates to "The Boogeyman" in Russian. However, if you look up the translation is not only incorrect it is quite humiliating.) Also the supposedly immortal, it would seem, John Wick appears to be very easily beaten up by flash car thieves, but then goes on to take out hundreds of men armed to the teeth with aplomb. It may have been nice to learn more of his past but there is now a vehicle or two (or three?) where I am sure this will most likely have happened.
Are these faults minor enough to be written off as suspension of disbelief? I think so, yes. This movie was a pleasing and inviting fightfest that promised what it delivered and delivered it much better than 90% of other attempts at such things. There are the obvious voices that say it is a copycat vehicle of Taken. After all, Taken was cutting original stuff never tackled before on screen.