Film Grains: John Wick (2014)

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Anticipation 3/5  Can the movie deliver, or was the trailer just a good short film…

Final Verdict 4/5 Nothing new in terms of plot, but the action delivers impressive blows!

The story is nothing new. Keanu Reeves plays John Wick, a retired gun-for-hire whose wife has just died of cancer. She bequeaths a puppy to John so that he can care not only for his beautiful 1969 Ford Mustang, but also for something emotional and alive. A Russian mobster’s spoiled son (Game of Thrones’s Alfie Allen) steals the car and kills the dog. John’s wick ignites (groan…). John goes boom. John fucks everyone up.

It’s nice to see Keanu Reeves back in an action movie. His character, John Wick, is clad in pallbearer black as though ready to escort all whom cross his path to their funeral. Not once does he have to smile. His lines are limited and he actually shows some acting chops in one sequence where he is held captive. Willem Dafoe’s (Platoon, Spider-man) limited time on screen is a pleasant addition. His complicity with Reeves as two seasoned veterans getting back in the action game is self-reflexivity at its most playful. Michael Nyquist (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) looks like he’s having a great time playing the antagonist, mobster Viggo Tarasov. He nuances his performance in a way that you understand why he would consider giving up his son to John Wick instead of protecting him.

First-time director Chad Stahelski, Keanu Reeves’ stunt double on the Matrix movies, is quite apt at letting the action blossom. Rather than forcing unnecessary camera movements and interferences from the cutting room onto the audience, all Stahelski’s shots are lean and rely on the choreographies. The camera’s stability keeps the screen uncluttered and lets you savor every punch, kick and close range gunshot as though each were a delicacy meant for tasting one at a time. Not since The Raid: Redemption has violence had the potential for being described as beautiful. Each innovative fight sequence induces winces and grins in unison that, in turn, causes a thirst for more.

There’s definitely enough going on in John Wick to generate critical analyses. Modern family dynamics mantled in cultural divide; gender politics (expressed in a sequence where a woman is executed by four men because she broke the rules); or even a generational critique stemming from Puer aeternus – Iosef Tarasov never shedding his romantic view of Gangsterism: a microcosm of the millennial generation suffering from Peter Pan syndrome, are a few examples.

John Wick is a breath of shoot’em up fresh air.  The violence is meticulous and the humor is as precise as Wick’s bullets. The best action movie I’ve watched in a few years. The people producing the Taken, Expendables, and whatever Jason Statham series is up next, should sharpen their pencils because apparently John Wick can kill three guys with one.

Words by Jason Michael Beland

 

 

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