Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, Alfie Allen, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan
Directed By: Chad Stahelski
Plot: John Wick (Reeves) is a retired assassin dealing with the loss of his wife (Moynahan) when he is unexpectedly pulled back into the life after an entitled douche (Allen) kills his dog.
What Works: I was waiting for the sequel to review the first film officially. I love action films that actually take the time to choreograph fight sequences well enough that we don’t need a thousand camera angles. I love it when an actor takes the time to train to make sure that he can actually perform the tasks needed. The action in this film is incredible. On top of the fact that the film provides us with a story and a reason behind everything. It creates this world, like a modern mob movie. The movie invests in Wick early on, showing us in just a few short scenes how much he loved his wife, and how hard he is taking her death, and just how much this dog means to him. Then, when this dog is taken from him, we believe he’s a man with nothing left to lose, because we felt him lose so much already. Reeves not only does a great job with the action, but also with the heart of the film. He broke me when he was reading the card left by his wife. He’s so invested in this character, far beyon the ass kicking. John Wick is a new kind of action hero… an assassin with purpose.
What Doesn’t Work: I felt like the film invested so much in John Wick and this universe, but then introduced a ton of characters, almost in the way a comic book film does. It was a bit of an overload for me, because most of these characters have no backstory. The only times this is acceptable is either in a horror film, where you’re introduced to a lot of characters so you can have a good body count, or in a comic book film where you’re trying to nod to a lot of secondary characters for the fans. In a mob/action film, supporting characters really do need some kind of backstory. I wanted to know more about Willen Dafoe’s character, or Ian McKellan’s character. I suppose I might learn more in the sequel, but I shouldn’t have needed a sequel.
Final Word: I’m really looking forward to John Wick 2, and the expansion of the universe. John Wick has some seriously amazing action sequences, and I definitely recommend it for all action lovers. Also, this is one of Keanu Reeves’ best performances.
Final Grade: A-