John Wick

Oozing style and blistering momentum, John Wick is an unrelenting but thoroughly gratifying action film.

When was the last time you saw a good old fashioned action film? I’m talking about the type of balls-out carnage that existed much before the likes of Michael Bay’s dependency on faux-pas image generation. Packed with style, energy, and blistering momentum, John Wick is not just a frame by frame restoration of old-school mayhem, its unrelenting audacity kicks the growing trend for watered down action in the groin. If it is action you want, action you get – no holds barred and thoroughly gratifying.

Helming the film is David Leitich as producer and Chad Stahelski as first time director, both expert fight chorographers and stunt doubles from over two decades of action thrillers. The latter was also responsible for those genre defining action scenes in The Matrix trilogy, besides standing in as Keanu Reeves’ stunt double in other films. Speaking of which, Reeves hasn’t been in anything memorable since the aforementioned trilogy but returns to form as the titular mob assassin whose very mention irks jittery nerves from New York City cops to the Russian mafia and everyone in between. Mourning the untimely loss of his wife, Wick is brought out of retirement after crossing paths with his former mob employers. Not only do they steal his 1969 Mustang, they also kill his adorable puppy – a posthumous gift from his wife to ease her passing. Now what do they say about taunting a man with a short fuse and nothing to lose? With an arsenal of firearms at his disposal, Wick unleashes a bullet barrage and won’t stop until mob boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) and his overindulged son Iosef (Alfie Allen) join the ascending body count.

Although lacking a meaty story, Derek Kolstad’s script might seem like yet another revenge film that glorifies characters with a ‘particular set of skills’. Needless to say, characters with this skillset are on the rise and just recently we saw Denzel Washington open a can of whoop-ass in The Equalizer. Where John Wick differs is in its unapologetic approach as a violent revenge film with no room for dramatic twists and turns. This is also what makes the film fun to watch because all you have to do is take in the thickening layers of brutality following each wave of fluidly filmed fight scenes.

 With intense shootouts (a hefty dollop of which are gritty head shots) and close quarter brute force, the action rarely slows. If it does, it’s during moments of straight-faced humour and Kolstad’s strategic placement of supporting characters.  Willem Dafoe and Adrianne Palicki play fellow assassins. One aids Wick while the other is contracted to kill him. In the neutral zone is Ian McShane who plays the owner of an upscale hotel that serves as a safe house for all assassins. It’s a clever touch that says a little more about their profession and the unwritten code of ethics that goes with it. As an only perceivable downside, there isn’t much emotion from anyone except Daisy the ill-fated dog. Then again, it’s a snug fit for Reeves and the payoff is watching him live up to Wick’s reputation of a stone cold killing machine. One scene even has Viggo reciting a verse that fables Wick as the bogyman himself. I’m thinking more along the lines of Keyser Söze in the flesh. Wick-ed indeed.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.