John Wick

Year 2014

Keanu Reeves   as   John Wick
Michael Nyqvist as Viggo Tarasov
Willem Dafoe as Marcus
Ian McShane as   Winston
Adrianne Palicki   as   Ms. Perkins
Lance Reddick as   Hotel Manager  
Directors - Chad Stahelski
  - David Leitch
Screenwriter - Derek Kolstad

One the surface, this is just another shoot-em-up. Stop me if you've heard this one (too late), a once in a lifetime retired assassin gets drawn back into his/her old life and kills nearly everything that moves. In 2014 alone, there were The Equalizer, The November Man, and Taken 3 in addition to John Wick. And those are just "top tier" movies of 2014! This doesn't even count similar movies like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit or A Walk Among the Tombstones which were also released in 2014.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it makes for a series of boring movie choices. How many times can you use the "they messed with the wrong guy" premise and make it seem fresh? I dunno, because most movies don't make it seem fresh.

John Wick does, though, and not because of any kind of plot twist. The way John Wick is directed almost makes it seem like a fantasy. There really is a sense that what you're witnessing is a part of life that you do not know about yet is as real as your morning can of Mountain Dew. This sub-society even has its own currency.

There's also a "character" in John Wick that gives it more dimension. A hotel, The Continental Hotel, is neutral ground for this secret society of criminals. It's really well done as a sanctuary where everyone knows everyone else but is living according to the rules of a cease fire while within the hotel. Lance Reddick as the Hotel Manager who works 24/7 gives the hotel, and all events concerning the hotel, a supernatural sheen. The persona of the hotel reminded me a lot of the last chapters of The Getaway.

This movie provides a plausible, nearly religious, reason as to why John Wick gets dragged out of retirement. This special touch definitely adds to the enjoyment of the movie.

There are no cops either. Well, that's untrue. The cops, when they get around to showing up, just sort of accept John Wick's crazy antics. The thing is, the lack of police is acceptable in this movie. In this alternate reality world of John Wick, not having police around is entirely credible.

The plot is, as I've written, quite straight-forward. A ex-hit super-duper man, John Wick (Reeves), loses his wife to natural causes. While in his state, he's attacked by the son of crime boss he helped put into power. So, he has to kill everyone to experience catharsis. And I do mean everyone. The body count is on the far side of fifty. I quit keeping track at around fifty dead by the hand of John Wick.

You see, John Wick isn't the baba yaga, or boogeyman. He's the one who they sent to kill the baba yaga. (Side note that Baba Yaga is a female witch in Eastern Bloc mythology.)

I started watching this movie not expecting much. I mean it stars Keaneu Reeves as the killing machine. Fortunately, he doesn't say much so he isn't given the opportunity to ruin the movie. Give Keaneu Reeves a reason to "interract" with other characters, and the movie will self-destruct like The Devil's Advocate. No one gives him that chance here.

Once I exhaled, the movie became entertaining. He's a killing machine with his pistol and martial arts skills. He takes on minions and then the boss repeatedly. I couldn't decide if I was watching a video game or an anime converted to live action.

Oh, yeah, it's hokey. John Wick only misses what he's shooting at once, when the target is the big boss' son. Otherwise, he'll hit his man every time. Maybe it won't be a kill shot, but the shot will connect. And the target will fall in such a way that John Wick can finish the kill with a bullet to the head. Lots and lots of convenient body drops.

Also, the boss battle only takes place after all of the minions have been dispatched. Never tangle with the boss unless the minions are dead is the rule of the writer.

So, it's quite formulaic.

John Wick has to reload his gun, which is a nice touch. So, I liked that.

For me, there were only two scenes where I had to say it was over the top. In one scene, someone gets a head shot kill by shooting through a tiny lead glass window. Uh, no. In another scene, four people have a fifth person surrounded. The four shoot and kill the fifth. The four walk away unscathed. At least one of them should have been shot when bullets passed through the body of the fifth. I really liked the way Ultraviolet handled this. Not here, though, because bullets never pass through anyone.

Then there are the trivial things like drinking of the Blanton's with two or three large cubes of ice. Zero cubes, or at most one cube, is all the ice a glass of Blanton's bourbon needs. And people referring to Mr. Wick as "Jonathan". This just in! When the spelling is John, it is NOT short for Jonathan. When the spelling is Jon, it is short for Jonathan. Since this is John Wick and not Jon Wick, his name is not (nor has it ever been) Jonathan.

No nudity, but there is profanity and blasphemy. Chick flick potential is below average. The action, once it starts is non-stop. The gimmick of a fully realized criminal society makes this one nicely unique and the movie's a great way to kill some time. In fact, I'm kind of looking forward to the sequel.

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