Keanu Reeves stars as John Wick, an expert hitman who’s “retired” then gets drawn back into the underground crime world set in New York City. People in this crime world who don’t know John’s reputation and prowess unknowingly unleash John’s relentless pursuit of the target who wronged him on a very personal level.
In this world, everyone knows John’s name due to his reputation and past actions. He is disciplined in all aspects of his simplified life. He gets respect on sight, but this anti-hero is not cocky and does not taunt his foes.
John lets his action do the talking as Reeves continually amazes with his physical prowess while performing several tough stunt sequences. Reeves even reunites with his Matrix Reloaded co-star Randall Duk Kim in a key sequence that gives the audience a break in the action while setting up the next challenges.
John forges through any resistance in front of his vengeful mission without wallowing in his own personal, emotional, or physical issues. “They know you’re coming,” says knowledgeable associate named Winstone, played by Ian McShane. “It won’t matter,” John replies. John is simply relentless even in his return to this life carrying his new found vulnerability. This humble hitman even states how his previous life was “better than he deserved.”
The cast and crew create a straight-ahead approach that does not yield many surprises, though the filmmakers open some opportunities for some mild twists like a surprise visitor where audiences only initially hear the voice then see the surprise visitor in a later scene.
John depends heavily on his relationships with others especially Viggo Tarasov, played by Michael Nyqvist (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) who’s backed by his right hand man Avi, played by Dean Winter from the “mayhem”-themed Allstate TV commercials. Winter adds some nice comic relief while Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Platoon) adds important gravitas to the hitman profession as Marcus. Rising Star Adrianne Palicki (G.I. Joe: Retalliation, TV’s Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick (TV’s Fringe), and Bridget Moynahan (I, Robot) all have key roles with very personal experiences with John.
Audiences see this violent world through the eyes of two unique stunt experts-turned film directors and their talented cast and crew with this no-nonense approach and stellar supporting cast.
The filmmakers blow open the doors on a crime underworld in which no one wants to get involved. Audiences even encounter the clean-up crew who erases the blood filled results from the constant battles, painting a dark picture using great sound, music, and action while filming in New York City and Long Island.
David Leitch and Chad Stahelski co-direct the lean one hour and 36 minute John Wick with great perspective. Leitch and Stahelski naturally have an eye for action in their direction, but also incorporate the musical score with sound effects, special lens focusing methods, subtle foreshadowing and quick fade in/outs very well. For example, an inventive early sequence transitions audiences to a hospital scene using visuals and a transforming audio beep.
Directory of photography (DP) Jonathan Sela (Law Abiding Citizen, Max Payne, A Good Day to Die Hard) uses dark cinematography that features blue lighting the accentuates the red-colored fire and blood among the shots in interior settings like night clubs. These unique styles that enhance the film’s appeal, but this team still makes a few noticeable errors including an interior warehouse scene where audiences will likely struggle to see the details of the end a physical struggle. Predictably, both characters are wearing dark clothes during the sequence, which does not help the view either.
Leitch and Stahelski have a great career ahead of them as a directing-producing team and honor their roots by adding other stunt professionals like Vladimir Troitsky into the cast. They also co-produced the film with Eva Longoria (TV’s Desperate Housewives) and many others. John Wick’s sheer will and commitment do not reflect a glorification of violence and the plot does not insult the audience’s intelligence.
The fast paced music and score keeps audiences in line with John’s relentless work. Composer Tyler Bates teams with Le Castle Vania, Joel J. Richard, M86 & Susie Q and the Candy Shop Boys create several memorable pieces that energize and excite.
By the end, I want to see where John is going as well as where he has been, so some future prequel films, TV mini-series, or related media would be very welcome. The potential for sequels is also definitely there and filmmakers have synergized into the 2013 video game Payday 2 as well where exclusive downloadable content includes John Wick as a playable character. Recommended and rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language, and brief drug use.
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