It has been a mighty longtime coming for a unique revenge action-thriller like John Wick to finally hit theaters. The film is anything but an average run-of-the-mill dud that apathetically goes through the motions without an ounce of investment. The outcome will leave a lot of naysayers feeling like fools for initially scoffing at the trailer’s off-kilter premise. It’s an absolute smorgasbord of adrenaline for diehard fans of the shoot ’em up genre to deliciously sink their teeth into. Not even the basic nature of the story can halt how it runs the gamut with no qualms whatsoever in the unrelenting pace. Nor does it begin to question the aftermath of the carnage left in its wake.
But make no mistake in assuming John Wick is nothing more than an exercise in gratuitous piles of mindless body counts. The full arsenal is how powerfully the film justifies all the stylized violence even though the depictions are very much the main selling point. What separates this outing from other inferior installments rests entirely on the humanity injected into the setup. The plight is tearjerking as the last soul that John (Keanu Reeves), a retired hit-man, loves is brutally murdered in a home invasion, ultimately forcing him back into a line of work he desperately wanted to escape. Only now turning his profession into a rise-or-die-trying personal mission to settle the score.
John Wick will vehemently resonate with anyone who’s lost a person or animal. Words can’t express how perfectly the film plays off this driving force, while thankfully refraining from exhausting all the motivation someone would need to take measures into their own hands. Admirably, first time directors, David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, treat their audience like they’re capable of intelligence and empathy. For good measure, the duo fill the vicarious arc with spellbinding palettes of filter eye candy, breathtakingly glazed over hypnotic fight choreography. In regard to the latter, even at age 50, Reeves puts young Hollywood to shame.
To further touch on his performance, John Wick not only cements Reeves’ triumphant return, but his underrated legacy as a powerhouse in this physical field. Never has he appeared more intimidating, focused, and wholeheartedly committed to a role quite like this one. His portrayal of someone pushed to the brink oozes with ice cold emotion and gritty realism. It’s hard to believe the character wasn’t tailor-made just for Reeves, unleashing his true range. Avid supporters will be amazed at the layers and stunts that he channels within himself.
The upscale underworld of New York City also plays a key role in John Wick’s formula working on all fronts. For example, the Continental hotel, run by Winston (Ian McShane), acts as a safe haven where professional killers mingle. John books a room, plotting moves and healing wounds he collects on the battlefield, and his stay peeks the interests of Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) and other old, shifty patrons. John’s goal of taking out pissant gangster Iosef (Alfie Allen) causes quite a stir in their little secret world governed by air-tight rules. After all, Iosef is the only son of Russian mob boss Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), therefore John’s pursuance kickstarts a nasty war zone for henchmen caught in his crosshairs.
Harkening back to gritty realism, John Wick remains refreshingly grounded through simple inclusions in the finer details. This film isn’t about some unstoppable machine who’s impervious to pain and spraying unlimited ammo in every direction. Not only do John’s enemies get the drop on him, but Marcus (Willem Dafoe), an assassin associate, comes to his aid when he’s all out of options. Intricate gunplay with head shots and reloads galore serve as the source of many uneasy, yet giddy, reactions. They deliver incredibly nerve-racking scenes, as every vicious shot—whether dished out or received—not only count, but trigger constant panic attacks through witnessing the imminent peril.
Without giving too much else away, the events leading up to the final showdown enrich the atmosphere with edge-of-the-seat jitters. In one memorable scene, Reeves appears to break the fourth wall by proclaiming, “People keep asking if I’m back? Yeah I’m thinking I’m back!” And he certainly is, judging by the non-stop critical acclaim the film has been receiving for all it has to offer. When it boils down to it, John Wick has every element needed for earning an official badass seal of approval. It’s a surefire cornerstone and a special breed of revenge action-thriller that’ll be held in high praise next to the undisputed classics in recent memory.