Friday 14 November 2014

Film Review: John Wick

Sad Keanu is a thing of the past - this is Mad Keanu. 

Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe, Michael Nyqvist and Adrianne Palacki, John Wick is the most stylish and badass action movie of 2014. 

John Wick is an ex-hitman in retirement. He's gotten out of the game and settled down with his wife, putting his killer past behind him. But when his wife dies from cancer, John is heartbroken. His wife's parting gift to him is a puppy, a way of helping him grieve and come to terms with her death.

But John soon gets dragged back into the grim underworld he swore to leave behind - after crossing paths with a troupe of nasty Russian mobsters, John's house is invaded, his puppy maliciously killed and his beautiful 1969 Mustang stolen. What the mobsters don't realise, is that they just crossed the wrong guy.

Thrust back into action, John uses his past connections to hunt down and kill those who took everything from him - as well as killing anyone who gets in his way.

Firstly, let's address the elephant in the room - is Keanu any good? I mean, the guy is renowned for having as much acting ability as a baked potato sometimes - remember The Day the Earth Stood Still, or 47 Ronin? Thankfully, John Wick sees Reeves return to his winning (badass) ways, the like of which we've seen in The Matrix, Speed and Constantine. The generic bodycount revenge tale and hammy dialogue really plays to Keanu's strengths, and he suited the role well.

I mean, he's certainly not going to be gunning for Oscars with that stilted, monotone delivery of his, but his performance suited the kind of film he was in, so it worked.

The supporting cast is fleshed out with a host of familiar faces, including Michael Nyqvist as John's mobster arch enemy, Willem Dafoe as an old acquaintance/rival and Adrianne Palicki as a sultry femme fatale out to off our hero. They're all great additions, especially Palicki who steams and smashes up the screen in her scenery-chewing villainess role. Dafoe is given a role that could've been fleshed out and expanded upon more, meaning he ends up feeling a little half-arsed.

The thing that struck me about John Wick was how energetic and visceral the action scenes were. They are, for lack of a better word, amazing. The camerawork and editing is seamless and fluid, and give the fight scenes a really punchy, kinetic and bone-crunching quality. There's none of the jarring shaky-cam and quick, choppy editing other action films seemingly rely upon.

It was really refreshing, and most importantly, entertaining. I actually had fun watching these (sometimes shockingly) violent action set-pieces, and this was down to the clean, crisp and impactful editing and choreography.

The lighting and direction (by debut director Chad Stahelski) is also wonderfully colourful, with one scene in a nightclub being particularly eye-popping. All up, the action looks and feels great - and Keanu throws everything he can behind the role to keep things fast-paced and entertaining.

Of course, not everyone will be as enchanted by the frenetic action as I - there is no denying that the script is shoddy, the dialogue is poor and the acting kinda funky. So, if stylish B-movies with little in the way of acting or substance aren't for you, maybe give this one a miss.

But for the rest of you fun-loving movie-goers - you could do a lot worse than spend a Friday night kicking-ass with John Wick. It tops shite like The Expendables 3, and was a lot more entertaining than The Equalizer.

The Verdict: 7.5/10

It's lean, mean and needs to be seen to be believed - John Wick embraces it's B-movie roots and emerges as one of the most fun, energetic and blood-soaked films you'll see in 2014.


  1. Nice review, Rhys, and yes, REFRESHING is the right word to describe this movie, such a breath of fresh air in the landscape of action cinema. I LOVED the action scenes in this movie, just LOVED the way they were filmed. I am so sick of movies these days thinking action needs to be all up close, shaky, and cut so fast you can't even comprehend what's happening. Away with that trend and more of this, I say, haha!

    1. Thanks Chris :) There was certainly a lot to love in John Wick, and the direction caught my eye in particular. Glad you enjoyed it too! Hopefully the approach here catches on with some other action movies today :)



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