John Wick Review
Verdict: Keanu Reeves returns to the world of good action movies with John Wick, which has already had a sequel greenlit after being a hit in America.
From the moment he appears on screen, there’s just something different about Reeves here: a confidence; a swagger. He inhabits the role, and he’s cool again. No, really. Despite looking a lot like the ‘sad Keanu’ meme (and Wick sure has good reason to be sad here) with his deep, soulful eyes and dark beard, he’s effortlessly cool and interesting again.
The film begins with a wounded Wick slouched on the floor before showing us, over the course of the film, how he got there. This seems to be a fashionable technique, being used just a few weeks ago in the inferior Run All Night. Wick has recently lost his wife to a disease, but receives one posthumous present from her – surely the cutest dog to be seen on screen all year. Sadly (and it’s horrible to watch even if they don’t show very much) the dog doesn’t last very long – a casualty when gangsters come calling.
What the film does next is a brilliant job of creating a mythos around Wick, simply by the way his name is mentioned so frequently, and the way it strikes fear in everyone. It really feels like a classic cinematic name you’ve heard before, purely from the way he’s spoken about – and one day maybe it will be. That said, it’s definitely a bit implausible that Alfie Allen’s Iosef, who leads the group that break into his flat, hasn’t heard of him, given that everybody else has.
We’re used to Allen playing characters you love to hate (especially Theon Greyjoy in early Game of Thrones), and his character is certainly easy to hate here. With his thick Russian accent and ‘untouchable’ arrogance, he’s a great horrible screen presence, especially brilliant in the standout scene of the film – a chase through a packed nightclub wearing just a towel. The action scenes and stunts throughout are varied and solid, as you would expect from a director (Chad Stahelski) who himself used to be a stunt performer. Wick coolly and consistently takes out enemies in exciting ways, both with weapons and getting his hands dirty.
Michael Nyqvist is reliable as the gangster boss, and though Willem Dafoe doesn’t appear very much, he is really great when he’s on screen. Adrianne Palicki shines in her small role, but Ian McShane doesn’t get a chance to do very much at all.
In between the action and lust for revenge, there are a few (and it really is only a few) lighter moments – a line here, a look there – which do make the film even more fun to watch.
John Wick is not perfect – there are some problems, notably with the logic in the film. Aside from the already-mentioned fact that Iosf hadn’t heard of Wick, there are some other major cliché action movie tropes, mainly around actually killing people off. Wick takes out swathes of bad guys, so why, when you capture him, would you leave him with two ineffectual bad guys instead of just killing him there and then? This is just one moment of that’s-going-to-come-back-to-haunt-you in the movie. Some other factors are pretty far-fetched, bordering on completely unbelievable – a fancy hotel just for criminals? There are probably many more holes that can be picked, but that would be unfair for a film that far and away achieves what it sets out to achieve. It’s great fun, has characters you care about (people to root both for and against), exciting action scenes – and a cute dog.
Final Thoughts John Wick is an exciting revenge thriller which puts Keanu Reeves back on the action movie map – and it’s his central performance that raises this from a fairly decent action film to a must-see film. It’s tight, kinetic and enjoyable, despite a few glaring plot holes and clichés along the way. The next trip into the world of John Wick can’t come soon enough.
John Wick is out in the UK on 10th April 2015.