Culture, Film

Review: John Wick (2015)

John Wick movie posterAnother in the long line of middle-aged blokes with a gun blowing away the bad guys. That’s it.

You want more? OK, Keanu Reeves is a grieving hitman after the son of a Russian Mafioso who killed the dog his dead wife gave him. John Wick is the assassin you hired to go kill the Bogeyman (their quote). You know the rest.

Stylishly shot in neon by two stuntmen-turned-directors, this is a Samurai-vengeance-Western-noir-action-flick that knows precisely what it is and shoots it straight down the line. Usually with a headshot. Seriously, I lost count.
For an assassin, John Wick isn’t exactly subtle. He telephones a warning to the Russian mob then has to despatch twelve killers who invade his house. Wick walks through the front door of a bath house to find his heavily guarded mark, carries out a frontal assault on a vehicle convoy a la Heat, shoots up a church, and attacks a second convoy on the move. I suppose he could have used a sniper rifle, but where’s the fun in that?

Michael Nyquist (Dragon Trilogy) is much better here than the lacklustre MI4: Ghost Protocol, as a cool, if profane Russian mobster. Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) plays yet another vile little weasel.

Reeves (Matrix trilogy) is at his best for some time (e.g. 47 Ronin); he can play a stone killer numbed by grief and fulled by anger, as it doesn’t demand a lot of dialogue and he can do the Clint Eastwood whispering thing whilst beating up and shooting the bad guys. Now in his forties, Reeves has acquired some gravitas, able to do the acting and the martial arts. Let’s face it, he was iconic AND terrible in The Matrix.

It’s a curious little world of John Wick. If Bond is the world’s most famous spy, then John Wick is the worlds most famous assassin, it seems everyone knows who he is when he checks in to The Intercontinental, a hotel for assassins, with rules and everything.

Willem DaFoe (Grand Budapest Hotel, A Most Wanted Man) does one of his rare, subdued cameos as Wick’s nearest thing to a friend in the business. Sole female character Ms. Perkins (Adriane Palicki) is a genuine femme fatale who gets short shrift in this script as a bit of window-dressing.

John Wick is every frame a genre movie. The technical skills displayed exceed the low expectations of a Reeves action flick. There is an awful lot of running, shooting and fighting in this, with some top-notch fight choreography. Somewhere between The Equalizer and Hitman, John Wick rattles along its own disturbingly glossy, violent track. See the same story all over again but with style and panache. RC

John Wick (2015)
Directors: David Leitch, Chad Stahelski
Writers: Joel Zadak, Derek Kolstad
Genre: Action
Certification: 15
Running time: 1hr 41mins
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Willem DaFoe, Adriane Palicki, Alfie Allen, Ian McShane

About Robin Catling

Robin Catling gained degrees in both arts and technology which led to a diverse portfolio of employment. A freelance systems analyst, project manager and business change manager for the likes of American Express, British Airways and IBM, he moved on to web design, journalism and technical authoring. He has also worked in film and television, both behind and in front of the camera, including productions by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese, Ron Howard and Ridley Scott. A qualified three-weapon coach, he runs West Devon Swords teaching sports fencing to all age groups, and in recent years qualified with the British Federation of Historical Swordplay to teach medieval and renaissance combat in the Historical Western Martial Arts.


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