I know readers may find this hard to believe, but I’m an action movie fan. From dark, gritty action in movies like Taken to over the top fight scenes like those in Kung Fu Hustle, I’m someone who enjoys them all. There’s a reason action movies are part of an enduring and growing genre, because there is something so absolutely cool about a character who goes beyond human ability and expectations to do incredible stunts. One of the pinnacles of this genre, which many would agree with, is The Matrix, a movie that blends an incredible plot, captivating characters, and revolutionary computer-generated images within an incredible action film. The star of the series, Keanu Reeves, has not had as golden a reputation in the movie industry as in The Matrix. However, I’m hoping John Wick, a ridiculous and ridiculously good film, flips Reeves’ public perception.
John Wick begins rather slow, setting up the unassuming and quiet titular character, played by Reeves. Wick is a man who lives alone in a large home after his wife recently died of cancer, but soon after the movie starts we see Wick’s wife’s last gift to him, a puppy delivered to his doorstep. Wick soon forms a strong bond with the dog, which is quickly broken after thugs break into his home in order to steal his car, killing the dog during their rampage. The thugs were young Russian mob members who then try to get the stolen car worked on at an auto shop. Although this seems like a rather plain setup to a revenge story, I was taken by this introduction, specifically because of all the questions it raised. Wick is a young man living alone and does not work, so how can he afford his lifestyle? Why can Wick understand and speak Russian? Soon after the intro we get our answer. Wick is not an ordinary person; he was once one of the most infamous killers in the underground world, known to many as the “Boogeyman.” This is one of my favorite parts of the film—the creation of this underground world with visuals rather than dialogue. The movie establishes an underground currency, a secret haven for assassins, and illegal professions within the world. I found it so engaging to learn about this whole illegal hierarchy that Wick re-enters as he plots his revenge.
The idea of showing, not telling, is transferred over to Wick’s character as well. The fight choreography is phenomenal; rather than doing quick cuts with a shaky camera, director Chad Stahelski is not afraid to focus on Reeves as he expertly demolishes scores of thugs. Wick is someone whose reputation precedes him, and you will see people acknowledge his history whether with respect, fear, or jealousy. Reeves is someone whose acting style many might call bland and emotionless, and they are correct, but this is perfect for the calm and calculating character of John Wick. On the other side of the spectrum, Alfie Allen, famous for his portrayal of Theon Greyjoy in HBO’s Game of Thrones, plays basically the same character but as the son of the head of the Russian mob who kills Wick’s dog. Allen’s egotistical, proud, and ultimately cowardly portrayal of Theon lends itself well to the role of Iosef Tarasov, who not only represents everything Wick isn’t, but is also the perfect target for revenge. I’m not going to reveal any other major plot points or characters because the movie is so fantastic that I think it’s worth experiencing a lot of these moments first hand; however, I must leave this movie with a big criticism.
After completing the movie, I can honestly say that the ending is absolute crap. It’s unoriginal and pointless, but luckily it doesn’t detract from the rest of the film, which is great. It may not be the next Matrix, but it is an enjoyable and surprisingly subtle movie with incredible action. I find it difficult to think of a better action film that has come out this year or past years since it’s so reminiscent of old school 80s action movies with a fresh coat of paint. John Wick is an original action movie that shines with talented actors, engaging settings, and amazing choreography and delivers more than promised as an action film, and really, that’s all a fan can ask for.