Some movies you wish you hadn’t missed in theaters — they start to build up a certain level of hype. I may have missed the John Wick press screening, but couldn’t be more excited to have it in my video library now. Even waiting in line for Press and Industry screenings at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, people kept talking about the excellence of John Wick; even if it was probably because Keanu Reeves was starring in Eli Roth’s festival film Knock Knock. A colleague of mine even told me John Wick was over-the-top, but badass. This only raised expectations. Does it live it up to the hype? Is John Wick the action movie we’ve been longing for? Absolutely. And it’s available on Blu-ray now from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
John Wick (Reeves) is having the night from hell. After crashing his car, he falls out onto the street bleeding, watching a video of him and his wife, Helen (Bridget Moynahan). We then flashback to the beginning of our story where we learn that Helen just died from an unnamed illness and John has quit the hitman lifestyle. One night, John receives a Beagle puppy with a note from his wife saying that she’s leaving him with this gift because he needs something to love. It isn’t long before his grieving is interrupted by a home invasion involving Iosef Tarasov (Game of Throne’s Alfie Allen), son of crime lord Viggo (Michael Nyqvist of the original Dragon Tattoo film series), with Iosef stealing his car and killing his puppy. Now, John unleashes a roaring rampage of revenge. Because who wouldn’t?!
Lionsgate continues to deliver some of the best transfers on Blu-ray with John Wick being no exception. Detail is always razor sharp, with bright and bold colors that never bleed. With a film revolving around the seedy underworld of New York City, thankfully crush never becomes an issue. Unless you’re the directors recording the commentary. They commented that there was on whatever monitor they were watching, but on a properly calibrated HDTV there’s not. Aliasing and banding are also kept at bay, along with no sign of noise. Needless to say, there are zero compression issues.
On the audio front, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first Dolby Atmos experience, I do know that it downcoverts to 7.1 Dolby TrueHD without the proper equipment, but man, this track sure packs a wallop! Be prepared for a whole new level of surround sound right from the Atmos logo. Bullets whiz by from every angle; directionality is spot on; bass keeps the action booming. You want an enveloping surround field, you got it. This is definitely my new audio demo disc. Also available are Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and English 2.0 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, and Spanish.
John Wick comes locked and loaded with some really fun special features. An audio commentary from co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch offers up lots of fun, behind-the-scenes anecdotes. As informative as they are, it’s hilarious to listen to them try to keep up with the pace of their own film. They mention there was a two and a half hour cut which may have made for a lesser film, but it’s funny to hear them caught off guard as each scene progresses. “Don’t F*#% with John Wick” (15:17) gives an inside look at Reeves training with the choreographers, along with the producers, cast, and directors talk about how professional he is and how much writing changed for the action scenes based on whether something worked on camera or not.
“Calling in the Calvary” (11:58) brings to light the supporting characters brought to life by the likes of Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, and how the Perkins character (Adrianne Palicki) was originally intended to be male. “Destiny of a Collective” (6:19) covers the stunt work of Studio 8711, praising the directors for making such a leap from stunt work to directing and how it’s such a blessing to be continuing their work with Reeves, something they’ve been blessed with since the first Matrix. “The Assassin’s Code” (5:18) gives an inside look into the seedy underworld Wick works in and “N.Y.C. Noir” (6:00) shows off the locations including the Navy docks. “The Red Circle” (6:26) spotlights the big shootout in the club and bathhouse scene. Do not watch this before the film or it ruins all of the fun.
The final word on John Wick is that it’s the best action film of 2014 you probably didn’t see. Featuring a killer performance from Keanu Reeves who’s in total-kick ass and not-taking-names mode, this is the most fun he’s been since the original Matrix. Never taking the time to get convoluted, John Wick may be simple, but that’s what most action films should be. There’s been a growing trend of epic spectacle in the genre, and here, everything is stripped to bare bones necessity. With a near perfect video presentation, and one of the flat out best audio releases yet, John Wick is a definite must-own and warrants a blind buy for any action fan.