********* 7 out of 10 *********
Director: Chad Stahelski & David Leitch (uncredited)
Actors: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe
Even the best of the action movies of yesteryears had some simple ways of going about things. The hero had to be given a motive to begin with, be it personal, professional or in some cases, even for the social good. The personal angle always worked the best. The hero would then wreck havoc all alone, either in his hunt for an individual or a crime gang or in some cases, even an entire government. The hero would waste little time talking, and spend more time on shooting and fist-fighting. In the best cases, he would be swift, merciless and extremely focused, driven by his own sense of justice and his own set of rules. There would be a big finale, possibly with a hand-to-hand combat to finish off the villain, and the end would then have justified the means. John Wick uses the best of the old action movies, neatly puts all those elements together, to create a fast-paced entertaining package which lives up to its promise of blowing up stuff.
John Wick is the story of retired assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) who has recently lost his wife to cancer. A grieving Wick receives a puppy as a gift, posthumously from his wife, to help him cope with her passing away. Wick starts to connect with the puppy as he goes out for a drive in his ’69 Mustang car. But an alteration with Russian mobsters at a gas station is about to change Wick’s life again, as he starts to hunt the brattish son of an extremely powerful figure in Russian crime syndicate, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist). Fate has pulled John Wick back into the life he had left, and the question is whether he will now be able to survive it or not.
The story of John Wick written by Derek Kolstad is quite straightforward, and moves at the right pace with a leisurely feel in the beginning as you get comfortable in your seats and then a gradual increase in intensity. The action sequences are the highlight of the film, and have been expertly handled by the director duo Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (though only Chad Stahelski is credited as the director, in line with the regulations of the Directors Guild of America) who have previously worked as stunt directors in action flicks as Rambo, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and The Expendables 2. For a directorial debut, the duo has done an amazing job in maintaining a balance between the elongated action sequences and the natural progression of the story, so as not to step over one for the other. The visuals during the fight are also worth mentioning, as they happen over different locations, such as a nightclub or a hotel room, and provide a different kind of thrill and sight. The body count is quite large, though things do not feel repetitive, and there is a nice fluidity to the action. Then there is the music by Tyler Bates which brings out a very modern feel to the movie, moderating the seriousness and mixing it with a cool vibe which you could actually sway to.
Action heroes are usually required to emote less, and so it is not the variance in their expressions, but their screen presence and the comfort with which they handle the flow of the action that we judge. Keanu Reeves makes a very striking appearance with his well-tailored black suit, and he does not let the intensity slip from his eyes as the movie progresses. His character is defined as a very persistent and focused guy, and that is what Reeves manages to keep intact. Michael Nyqvist puts in a really commendable performance as the powerful Russian mobster intent on keeping his son alive. He brings in a spark and colour to the film without dissolving his reputation as a serious bad guy. Willem Dafoe, as the friend of John Wick, pops up now and then to bring more quality. There are some brief roles for Ian McShane (with his mesmerizing voice as always!), John Leguizamo, and Adrianne Palicki, and they do well to widen the world of the movie. Alfie Allen as the one being hunted by John Wick has little to do apart from being terrified, while Bridget Moynahan is seen only momentarily as Wick’s wife.
John Wick is what it sets out to be, an action movie. It isn’t overly loud, it isn’t too soft. It has the elements of silliness that an action movie always has, like why doesn’t the bad guy put a bullet in the hero when he has a chance rather than going for the over-elaborate kill? But action fans forgive those flaws, as long as the movie keeps the tempo up. John Wick does. Amen.