John Wick has been one of my most anticipated films of 2015. I mean, I heard about this film all the way back in mid 2014, followed its success in every other territory that it was released in, read the Guardian review of it in October 2014, and then had to wait another six months before I could finally watch it. But boy was it worth the wait.
John Wick stars Keanu Reeves as the title character, Willem Dafoe as his friend/co-worker Marcus and Michael Nyqvist (well known for the Swedish version of The Girl With Dragon Tattoo) as his ex-employer Viggo. When his pet dog is killed and vintage ’69 Mustang are stolen by a gang of Russian thugs, John Wick comes out of retirement, as he was once a revered hitman, to exact revenge.
First off, this film looks gorgeous. With rain-slicked streets, neon infused nightclubs (and subtitles) and swanky hotel suites littered throughout the entire film, credit is due to cinematographer Jonathan Sela, who captures several beautiful scenes. The nightclub in particular, which houses one of the best action scenes of the film, is awash with contrasting red and blue lighting, giving us a beautiful silhouette effect on the characters that are fighting.
Praise must be given to all actors and actresses involved, who all give standout performances. Keanu Reeves doesn’t really display much emotion (that’s unfair, I do like Keanu Reeves) but special praise must go to him for his performance of many of the stunts and fight work, which at age 50 is pretty spectacular. Willem Dafoe and Michael Nyqvist play both their roles with some beautiful overacting, and Adrianne Palicki as the possibly psychotic hitwoman Miss Perkins is fun to watch interact with Reeves. A small role for Lance Reddick as a concierge has some funny quips, but the star everyone will fall in love with is Andy, the beagle puppy. Even if you hate dogs, the first time the camera zooms in on his face, with his large brown eyes, you’ll melt.
While the story is paper-thin at best, another thing I really liked about John Wick was the world-building it did. Throughout the film Reeves makes his way to bars, clubs and hotels where he is known, and which are filled with other hitmen and women. Sometimes they’ll see each other and exchange greetings, and reminisce about previous work, and it all works without coming off as odd. Mr. and Mrs. Smith did a similar thing, what is does is flesh out the world. It almost makes me want to see a prequel/sequel, just so that we get to explore the world full of assassins again.
The fight scenes, while sometimes stunning, do occasionally focus on extreme close ups, which leads to some fight scenes being a bit unfocused. To continue with a couple of the other negatives, the first half of John Wick does seem a bit overly long, and that does mean it suffers from some pacing issues in the second half when what should be big important fight scenes are pushed quite close together.
Another problem is the score for the film. While the film has several composers, with Tyler Bates and Joel J Richard creating most of the original score (notable past work includes 300, Rise of The Argonauts, The Bourne Identity and Guardians of the Galaxy) the score here feels a bit generic, with only THINK by female duo KALEIDA being memorable. However, those few nitpicks don’t dilute the film too much into being anything short of enjoyable.
In summary, John Wick is a must for action fans or those looking to see some fantastic camera work or in camera stunts. If you like The Raid or its sequel (two of my favourite films of recent years) then I would strongly recommend John Wick.
Score: 8/10 Classy cars, sharp suits and visceral violence makes this film one to remember