FILM REVIEW - John Wick
It has been chaos on the work front recently and I’ve really wanted to sit down to watch a film. Now, although I had several newer films waiting to be seen, I remembered that about a month ago or so I bumped into Common in Central London. Someone said he was there filming for the latest John Wick film and I was like hang on a second, why have I not seen any of these films? I love Keanu Reeves. And so here were are, 5 am on a Tuesday morning, and I’ve just seen the first one!
‘John Wick’ is the story of the titular character, a man named John Wick who we see right at the start of the film attending the funeral of his wife. We get a mysterious run-in with a character named Marcus at the funeral, and then we see John grieving. Much to his surprise, his wife had arranged for a dog to be dropped off at their house, telling him through a letter that he would need to learn to love again. However, during a simple trip to a gas station, he is accosted by a couple of Russian gangsters who want his car. He thinks nothing of it and proceeds on his way. When he wakes that night, he is ambushed by the same gangsters, who beat him up, steal his car and more importantly kill his dog. Lo and behold, this unleashes a rage in John Wick, and we find out that the man is an assassin of the highest quality. He swears revenge against the Russians, only to find out that one of them, Iosef, is the kid of Viggo Tarasov, a former business partner of his. Viggo pleads with John to let it go, but when it becomes apparent that John is on a mission, a group of men is sent to take John out, in his own home. Easily dispatched, Wick sets out for ‘The Continental’, a hotel that caters for high-level assassins. Believing this to be a safe space, John sets out his mission plan. Unbeknownst to him, Viggo has put out a bounty on his head, and despite the Continental’s rules, John is set upon by another assassin, Ms Perkins. Despite all these challenges along the way, John still intends to go after Iosef and when he hits up Viggo’s cache, it appears that he will have to contend with the father in order to get to the son. Can this retired assassin take up arms again and do what he does best? And will he get the revenge he so desperately seeks?
I can certainly that when they were casting for this film, there were probably a whole bunch of the usual action heroes reading for the role of John Wick. But let’s be honest, if we’re gonna go for action heroes who don’t say much, who better than Keanu Reeves for that role, huh? Despite not being the most intensive acting role, Keanu does a fantastic job at creating this intriguing character who goes from grieving husband to badass assassin. Playing his adversary Viggo was the menacing, Mikael Nyqvist. I think I vaguely remember his performance from “Mission Impossible 4” but the man was born to play a villain. His performance develops from this quiet gangster to a rageful father quite quickly and the breadth of the performance made it one of this film's best. Rounding off the cast, we had Alfie Allen as Iosef, once again proving that he’s very adept at playing a man that pretends he’s all that before ultimately being humiliated. Willem Dafoe plays Marcus, one of John’s old friends who keeps an eye out for him. Ian McShane plays Winston, the owner of the continental, and finally, John Leguizamo plays Aurelio in a smaller role that we could see potentially expanding in the future of the series. I think a shoutout has to go to Adrianne Palicki who plays Ms Perkins. Having been cast as an action villain against Reeves was no small feat, and Palicki delivers a decent performance.
Okay, so the only thing that I had heard about this film was from my father who didn’t like it. I don’t particularly think it was out of his interest range, but there probably wasn’t enough political drama or intrigue for him! I can see where he’s coming from. The film over the course of 1 hour and 41 minutes delivers a fairly average plot and an extremely basic script. That being said, I know that the director specialised in action stunts and from that perspective the film is excellent. The fight scenes are choreographed very well and never seem to last longer than they need to, *cough* The Matrix Reloaded *cough*. I think that in terms of introduction of a character, it does well to make us feel sympathy for Wick so that when goes out on this ridiculous rampage we’re kinda backing him. I know that there are two other films after this one and a fourth film on its way, and I think had I seen this film when it first came out, I would have believed it was designed to act as a trampoline to a franchise. Most action films are like this. I think going forward, the script and the plot would need to be worked on. It’s all well and good having an action star like Reeves and some excellent fight choreography, but we need to feel more.
A lot of the cinematography was the grounded fight scenes, and I’ve mentioned them above. They were excellent. It’s clearly a film that had a low budget and the director and the rest of the crew knew exactly how to get the most out of it. The music is evident throughout the film and is heavily involved in many of the slick fighting scenes. Was it the best music in the world? No. Did it completely fit what was going on? Hell, yes! I think the combination of the action and the music make this film watchable and more importantly enjoyable. Overall, a decent start to a franchise which is looking to set John Wick up against the James Bonds, the Rambos and the John McClanes of the World. There’s a lot of work left to do, so it’ll be interesting to see where this series goes from here!