You know how some people play video games they have played a dozen times or more, just trying to breeze through in the least amount of time and in the most efficient way possible? The video game players call them “speed runs,” and John Wick very much felt like that’s what I was watching, just with more style, better acting, more humor, a better idea of what world we are living in, and less tedium. But, still, our hero feels a lot like the protagonist in a speed run of the latest first-person shooter.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a retired hitman whose wife dies of some unnamed disease almost the very first scene of the film. A day later, he receives a dog in the mail, with a sweet letter from his wife telling him that, since he can’t love her anymore, he should love this dog. It’s a very cute dog. But, before you know it, some Russian gangsters have broken into his house, killed the dog, and stolen his incredibly nice Mustang — don’t ask me to tell you what it is beyond “a Mustang,” since my knowledge of cars is exactly null.
So, John decides to take revenge. The main perpetrator was Iosef (Alfie Allen), who is the son of a big-time criminal, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). Viggo and John used to be partners, but John manages to get out of the business, and there’s not a lot of ill-will between them. But Viggo knows that John was the best of the best, and that his son will most likely die. In addition to a whole host of nameless guards — who serve as cannon fodder — he enlists the help of two other hitmen to try to take out John: Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), and Marcus (Willem Dafoe).
Most of John Wick consists of our hero walking into a place and promptly shooting the dozen or so Russians that are there before getting a clue as to where his target will be. Rinse and repeat about five times, and you have John Wick. When Viggo told his son — and the audience — that John was the very best, “the man you hire to kill the Boogeyman,” he wasn’t joking. John is playing on easy mode.
Watching John progress through these action scenes is a visceral joy. He does it with such grace, style, easy, and efficiency that you can’t help but love watching him go about it. These scenes are so wonderfully choreographed and performed that they do make John seem like the coolest hitman you’ve ever seen. He seems to know exactly where everyone will be at any given moment, and a couple of body shots of a headshot later, and he’s already moved onto the next target. It’s incredibly entertaining.
I figured this would get boring, but it doesn’t. The action scenes aren’t all the same, which helps. They take place in a few different locations, and consists of a little more than just random gunfights. But the film also manages to create intrigue into its world, which was a nice added touch. There’s a whole code by which these characters live, including having a hotel designated just for hitmen, under which no business can be conducted. Even though John’s been retired for several years, everyone knows him and lets him go about his business. John Wick gives us these details in short bursts that seem unimportant at the time, but you piece them together and start to realize just how well this world was thought out.
It’s surprising how many laugh-out-loud moments are contained within John Wick, but there are a number of them. Perhaps the funniest parts come from single-word responses. Not one-liners, but one-worders — which should become a thing, by the way. A simple “oh” can go a long way, which is something you’ll find out with this film.
John Wick is a very enjoyable action movie. It has wonderful action scenes that are filled with flair and are choreographed and performed wonderfully by the cast. It’s surprisingly funny, too, and contains some impressive world-building, which is a nice added touch. John Wick isn’t a deep character, and Keanu Reeves acting is hit-or-miss, but he certainly does well with the action scenes. This is a dark and exhilarating action movie, and if you’re a fan of action, this isn’t one to miss.