Due to university coursework and other real life pressures, I rarely get the chance to review movies as soon as I see them. This is the first of many brief reviews of films I watched but couldn’t review at the time for whatever reason.
There is a vital reason the first Indiana Jones movie is the only one that doesn’t have his name in the title. Steven Spielberg surely didn’t intend to have created one of the all time great movie heroes that audiences would later be queuing round the block to watch jumping from a plane in a rubber dinghy or surviving nuclear holocaust via a fridge, as evidenced from keeping his name away from the title. Putting a name in the title of a film, or in the case of John Wick the actual title of the film, is a clear sign that you already have plans to make sequels and that your movie is nothing more than a wannabe cash cow. John Wick is such a movie- as enjoyable as it is, the mythology it builds around the central character suggests that everybody involved with the film assumed audiences would love Keanu Reeves’ retired hitman so much that they would surely be queuing round the block for his further adventures.
Putting an untried and tested character name in the movie title, think back to John Carter for a second, is a sign that studios will think that audiences are ready to watch the movie as hey, if a character’s name is the movie name, it must be important. After all, they aren’t giving audiences time to get to know the character, just putting him front and centre straight away. John Wick is good, silly fun, but by calling it by it’s main character’s name, just comes across as a cynical exercise in giving Keanu Reeves a star vehicle to get his career back on track.
After his wife dies of undisclosed movie terminal illness, retired hitman John Wick is given a pet dog from her as something to look after and care for now that she’s gone. One day, on a visit to a petrol station, a Russian gangster played by Game of Thrones’ Alfie “sister of Lily” Allen (a man who must have it in his contract to get violently humiliated in increasingly sadomasochistic ways in each thing he stars in) expresses interest in the vintage car he’s driving, but Wick refuses to sell it, insults him in Russian and buggers off. That evening, some pointlessly masked Russian gangsters come to his house, beat him up a bit, murder his dog and drive off in his car. What the Russian moron doesn’t realise is that John Wick was a former employee of his father, played by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Michael Nyqvist in one of his frequent unflattering rent-a-villain roles. From there, John Wick is hungry for revenge and the results are far more entertaining than you would expect.
John Wick is directed by prolific stuntman Chad Stahelski, who has previously worked with Keanu Reeves by doing all the stunts Reeves’ was too much of a pussy to do in The Matrix films. Films directed by stuntmen aren’t the most tantalising proposition, yet John Wick gives that sub-genre a good name by showing that Stahelski can stage action as well as he can take an active part in it. In the first shootout in John Wick’s apartment he takes out an entire army of goons in a badass fashion, only upstaged by him massacring what feels like the entire population of Brooklyn in a nightclub shootout later. It’s moments like these where you understand why the movie is named after the character- he’s such a badass that of course you want to see him in action again.
John Wick isn’t a movie I need to review in great detail- it’s a simple but effective little actioner, nothing more, nothing less. It feels more like a better-done version of the Luc Besson produced eurotrash thrillers that Liam Neeson usually stars in than any of the Hong Kong films its influenced by, yet still lingers in the imagination after viewing for as long as they did. If you like action, you will love this, but even if you don’t there is still plenty here to recommend.