Today I want to bring you the first of what I hope to be many flurbs, short blurbs about films that I feel are worth mentioning, but haven’t put together a whole theme to present them. Why now? Because I need to recommend John Wick as quickly as possible!
Keanu Reeves is not an actor known for his emotional depth, but when that emotion is smoldering rage, he does a damn good job. John Wick is, on its surface, a very simple revenge tale of an ex-assassin taking action against the Russian mob who has wronged him. That could describe the myriad direct-to-DVD action flicks that grace the shelf featuring either a washed-up ’80s action star or professional wrestler, but what really makes this work is the ruthless efficiency of its stylish action scenes, mirroring the attitude of its protagonist.
It’s not just the impact of the violence that makes this movie work, however, it’s the world-building. There is an underground currency for those working as assassins, large gold coins that change hands as jobs are completed, bodies are disposed of, and amenities are enjoyed at the Continental. (Imagine a nightclub/hotel run by a neutral organization that caters to these men and women as they accomplish their dastardly deeds.) The film hints at what this seedy underworld is like: the cops turning a blind eye, other operatives trying to collect bounties, only giving glimpses of the full picture. Throughout the film, everyone knows who John Wick is, and while I’m always a bit skeptical when a film nudges us with the idea that their unestablished character is in fact legendary, he certainly earns it once you see him in action. John Wick is a force of nature who blows through scores of Russian thugs without remorse. If you are at all squeamish about gun violence (or any type of violence) this film is not for you.
I’d love to wax lyrical about this movie, but it can be summed up as such: John Wick is a cool movie and it makes you feel cool. It’s not a deep or particularly meaningful film, but it provides pure entertainment in a slick way that shows that well-worn action tropes are still so satisfying when done well. It has enough visual flare to keep the cinematography interesting, and while it doesn’t quite grace the level of the nihilistic ultra-violence of Nicolas Winding Refn or the choreographic brilliance of Gareth Evans, it surpasses many recent action flicks in terms of fight scenes that deliver a visceral punch. If the latter day flicks of your ’80s action heroes haven’t been doing it lately, give this one a try.
Notable roles: You’ll have a hard time deciding if Alfie Allen reeks of a more petulant disposition as Iosef Tarasov or as Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones. Michael Nyqvist oscillates between grave and eccentric as Viggo Tarasov, the Russian businessman whose empire was built on a history of utilizing John Wick’s particular skills. Fans of the Swedish film adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy will recognize Nyqvist from his role as Mikael Blomkvist, the protagonist alongside hacker Lisbeth Salander.
What did you think of John Wick? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to share if you enjoyed reading!