In what can be summarized best as a mindlessly, violent escape into the movies, John Wick works best with no expectations and an open mind for insane action set pieces and vain punchlines that makes such films as Fast & Furious and Jack Reacher all the more fun. While Keanu Reeves still lacks the charisma that could make this film even more entertaining, his deadpan humor and stiff action star performance are perfectly suited for this wild ride.
John Wick stars Reeves as the title character, a former assassin who got out of the game in order to have a normal life with his wife. But after the passing of his wife during the beginning of the film, Wick is on his own to grieve until a package containing a note from his deceased wife and a puppy give him the purpose to wake up in the morning.
This is all shattered when Wick is getting gas one day and Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) takes a liking to Wick’s Mustang. Tarasov asks whether Wick would sell the car, to which he earns a polite “no” before moving on his way and going for a leisurely drive on an airport runway that plays out like Reeves’ tryout tape for a Fast & Furious movie.
While sleeping though, Wick is awaken by his dog and finds Tarasov and his men searching for his car keys in his house. Without putting up much of a fight, the altercation ends with his house torn apart, his car gone, and his dog dead. Moving swiftly, we learn that Tarasov is the son of Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), who was the former employer of Wick’s and is aware of the skills this man possess to take out his only son. Employing the help of another assassin, Marcus (Willem Dafoe), Viggo puts a hit on John Wick.
The film is not revolutionizing the action genre, but works very well within the pre-set parameters that the genre has as the call-to action leads to Wick mowing down dozens of Tarasov’s associates as he claws his way to getting to Iosef. In one scene, when Iosef is waiting for Wick in a night club, the scene that is painted alongside a wonderful selection of lights and music, makes for the film’s best scene as the two directors are able to create an action sequence that is both restrained, but contains a load of headhots and punches to appease the audience.
John Wick is able to weave the character together better than most other films that have been released recently with a similar premise as Reeves is able to embody this, at times lifeless, character who was once a great assassin. Entertaining side characters played by Dafoe, Adrienne Palicki, Ian McShane, and Lance Reddick create one of the more interesting universes an action film has made (even greater than Taken).
In the end, John Wick knows what it is and the characters around him work within the pre-determined premise that is still a load of fun to watch unfold. The blood shed is astounding and some of the kills dabble in the insane department, but overall, John Wick is a wonderfully entertaining installment into the action genre and shows that character driven films can still pack a punch even if the dialogue around it is incredibly dry.