There lies the entirety of the plot of John Wick, the directorial debut of veteran stuntmen David Leitch and Chad Stahelski. But don’t let the simplicity of the plot throw you, John Wick has a lot to offer.
John Wick stars Keanu Reeves (Matrix, Man of Thai Chi) as an ex-Russian hitman known as “The Boogeyman.” More appropriatley he is the one you send after the Boogeyman. Wick left the business when he found love and started his life anew. We enter the story just as his wife of five years passed away of cancer. Amidst his grief, John receives a pre-arranged gift from his recently deceased wife, an adorable puppy named “Daisy” to help him through this difficult transition. Don’t worry, no spoilers, this is all in the preview. While out running errands, we meet Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, Game of Thrones) son of Russian mobster Iosef Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist, MI4: Ghost Protocol). Feeling slighted by Wick’s unwillingness to sell his beloved 69′ Mustang Alfie decides to teach him a lesson. Late at night they break into his house, beat him up, steal his car and kill his dog. This foolish act of violence committed by young Alfie may be the last mistake he ever makes. The hitman gone straight is back and is bringing a lot of bullets with him.
In a movie so slight on story you might expect some pretty poor acting. You’d be wrong. Though not Oscar worthy by any means, all of the actors brought a likability or un-likability to their characters that felt natural and, at times, funny. Directors Leitch and Stahelski introduce us to the seedy underbelly of New York centered around the Hotel Continental. A hotel that caters to a very niche clientele: hit-men. The Continental acts as an oasis from the chaos of the job providing respite, medical services and an ornate bar full of jazz and exotic men and women. There is only one rule at the Continental: if you conduct business on the premises, your membership will be terminated. This set up an interesting underground culture akin to the world of vampires and werewolves in the films Underworld or Blade. Though instead of monsters you have the mafia and assassins.
The cinematography, the universe it creates, the musical score and action set pieces in John Wick easily make this my favorite action shoot ’em up since… well… Shoot ‘Em Up (2007, Clive Owen). Whether employing hand-to-hand combat, gun-fu or long distance sniping John Wick is a force to be reckoned with. It is here that the directors’ history as stuntmen shines through. These were some of the most kinetic and exciting action sequences I have seen in an American action film in recent memory. That being said, this movie is extremely violent and vulgar. As far as sexual content, there is a sequences filmed in a Russian bathhouse of sorts with bikini clad women in every shot. Though they are not generally the focus it is something to be aware of. This would not be a film for children seventeen or younger, especially if not accompanied by a parent or trusted guardian. For a full content breakdown please check out the links below.
It’s been a rough couple of months for the Russian Mob. With Denzel taking out an entire outfit in Boston (The Equalizer) and now Keanu in New York, it doesn’t pay to be in the mob. If John Wick has taught me anything it’s that violence against animals will be returned ten-fold. I think even PETA can get behind that message.
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