An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.
I’ve not had as much fun in the cinema for some time as I did watching ‘John Wick’, one of the best action films of recent times and a welcome return to form for Keanu Reeves. The film is a lesson in simple, but effective filmmaking, delivering a straightforward plot and plenty of exciting action to keep the audience gripped at all times. The film begins by introducing us to the titular character, a retired mob enforcer who is dragged back into the life when the foolish son (Alfie Allen) of his old Russian mob boss, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), steals his car and kills his dog. This sets Wick off on a one man quest for vengeance, and it’s not difficult to root for a guy on a mission to avenge the death of a cute puppy is it?! Keanu Reeves isn’t required to do much in the way of acting beyond the action scenes, but his cold demeanour suits the character perfectly and he gains the audience’s investment immediately.
The first thing ‘John Wick’ gets right is with its title character, with the film doing an excellent job of building up Wick’s ‘legend’ and detailing how he became so feared, largely through a terrific monologue from Michael Nyqvist. This helps us to take the necessary leap of faith when he starts taking out multiple bad guys at any given time, with his cold and calculated nature expertly displayed to the audience. The film also drafts in a collection of memorable villains, with Michael Nyqvist particularly excellent as the ‘Big Bad’. After his turn as Mikael Blomkvist in the Swedish adaptation of ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ and its sequels, Nyqvist’s performances in American films have been a bit hit and miss, but he’s on point here (even if he does look like George Galloway when he puts his hat on!). The rest of the supporting cast is pretty great as well, with enjoyable parts for terrific character actors such as Ian McShane and Willem Dafoe, amidst well known TV faces such as ‘The Wire’ duo Lance Reddick and Clarke Peters.
The action sequences are well directed and exciting, with the journey through Viggo’s nightclub perhaps the most exciting, as the different floors provide some good locations for fight sequences. Alongside the second house break-in, this part of the film showcases Wick’s economical approach to dispatching with villains. To summarise, ‘John Wick’ is an entertaining throwback to 80’s action movies, with minimal dialogue and colourful villains providing a backdrop to a pulpy vengeance thriller and it’s well worth your time.
Directed By: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki, Clarke Peters, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters and John Leguizamo