I have no idea why but it’s taken 5 odd months for this to come out in the UK, but has it been worth the wait???
In short yes it has.
This is a film that is not difficult to review, the difficulty comes in not over-hyping it. Essentially this could have been a B-movie destined for the shit heap but it just goes to show with directors who know what they are doing and the right cast even the simplest of ideas can be a success.
John Wick is a simple tale, a tale of revenge. Shortly after ex hit-man (Keanu Reeves) loses his significant other to a terminal illness son of local Russian mob boss (Alfie Allen) with cronies invades his home, beats the shit out of him, steals his Mustang and kills his dog. The dog his late partner left him so that he has something to love… the dog that is so damn cute there was no way you won’t hate anyone involved with its death.
For me, you want to hate a character let them kill a dog. It’s easy and doesn’t take much time to do. There’s no need to loads of back story or deep motive to doing it, you will instantly hate anyone for hurting a dog in any way… it’s just a fact.
Oodles of credit to first time directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, there can’t be many stunt coordinators that can take on a project like this to direct and not only get the names it attracted involved but make it fit together as well as it did. The action, as you would expect, is exciting and well thought out, the set pieces are entertaining and it has a bright aesthetic contrasting to dark locations to many of the scenes that never make it feel ‘samey’.
This is also the most committed I’ve seen Keanu to a role as I’ve seen for a long time. The role didn’t ask for complexity bit it did ask for a bit of emotional believability which I thought came across. Ian McShane, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick… all great secondary characters who were interesting and definitely bring something just a little different to the piece.
I even enjoyed the use of simple scenes where, for example, Keanu is burying his loved one and it’s clear he’s burying the last bit of his humanity along with the coffin, or when he decides to dig up his old weapons cache’ with a sledgehammer beneath his concrete floor, the almighty effort of literally digging up his past. They served a purpose and looked good without overdoing it. This along with the way they went about ‘world building’ personally left me wanting to know more so the news John Wick 2 has been confirmed with the same directors is nothing but good news.
This is not to say the film is perfect. The script was not great, Alfie Allan’s Russian accent didn’t always hold up and the climax was flat. These are all things that don’t ruin the movie, but rather just stop it from hitting the next level.
The action is belting and this film works because it is simple and they got the basics right. Good actors, good choreography and being nicely shot makes this the one movie that surpassed all expectation upon first viewing more than any other film I’ve seen this year. The directors clearly playing to their strengths as former stunt coordinators make for a fun 95 minutes.