With John Wick: Chapter 2 coming out next week I figured that going back to watch John Wick would be a good idea.
There are two things that immediately stand out when talking about John Wick. The first is obviously Keanu Reeves. People don’t really see him as this amazing actor that can do all types of roles, but in a movie that involves a lot of physical acting and not too much dialogue, he can be great. The other thing is that Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch are stuntmen. While being a stuntman doesn’t necessarily mean that they can direct a coherent action movie, it does mean that there will likely be a lot of passion and effort put toward the action set pieces.
These two things land up being the two biggest strengths of the movie. Keanu Reeves is exactly what you would want him to be in this type of role. With very little dialogue, he gives the John Wick character a lot of personality. It’s all about his facial expressions, which multiple times during the movie, tells you everything you need to know. He is a stone cold badass majority of the time, but Keanu is able to translate this sense of vulnerability in him. Keanu also brings some top notch physical acting to the movie. The pros to having someone like him playing in a movie like this is that a lot of the action can be in camera. There’s no need to aggressively cut the movie together to hide the fact that the actor can’t really do the scenes. You get to see Keanu in camera for a lot of scenes and you see him doing pretty much everything that doesn’t absolutely require a stunt double. He’s in there flipping people around, doing some flipping himself, and doing tons of hand to hand combat. It’s amazing to see directors that have enough confidence in their actor to allow scenes to play out the way they do.
Speaking of the directors, they do an amazing job with this film. The action scenes are beautifully shot the entire way through the movie. There is a scene in a nightclub that occurs around half way through the movie that made my jaw drop. It was a long scene with Keanu doing a lot of fighting. The choreography was great and the shots themselves were clear despite the nightclub lighting. It was a great sequence that’s going to stick with me for a long time. Aside from the action, the movie as a whole feels like it has its own unique personality. The way scenes are shot play out almost like a comic book would.
The other actors added to this comic book feel, especially Michael Nyqvist, who plays the main villain in the movie. He’s so over the top, but he completely owns it. His performance was extremely charismatic. Even his dialogue was cheesy and very cliche, but he made me buy it. There’s also a point in the movie where they give him some emotional depth that I also bought. He was just great all around. We also got good performances from Willam Defoe and Adrianne Palicki. They both had more of a minor part, but they filled out the cast very well. Palicki really stands out because I think she was perfect for that character. The other role I know her from is Agent Bobbi Morse in Agents of Shield. She’s pretty good in that series and the type of character she plays there translates very well to being a hitman here.
The music also helps maintain this tone. The way the music was utilized gave every scene this sense of excitement. They even start the songs before fights begin so that the audience can get pumped ahead of time. Even John Wick just walking around with the music playing was really cool.
While John Wick may seem like a “style over substance” type of action movie, that really isn’t the case. Within the movie there is a deceptive amount of world building done. This comes mostly in the form of The Continental. I don’t want to spoil everything surrounding this place, but I will say that the way it brings these hitmen together is pretty damn cool. There are also moments where the audience is hinted of people who knew of John Wick before he was retired. Those interactions drive home this reputation that John Wick has with the other hitmen in the movie. A couple of them are also hilarious.
There aren’t many flaws with this movie honestly. There are a couple of decisions that the villains make in this movie that I questioned. It fed into a common trope and I didn’t think it was done well. Also, the end of the movie felt tacked on. There are multiple points within the last 10 minutes where the movie could have ended just fine. What it led up to was pretty sweet, but the film stumbled to get to that point.
Overall, John Wick is a very fun and stylistic action movie that doesn’t disappoint. It’s exciting, intense, and delivers beautiful action sequences. Keanu Reeves shows up and gives a performance that makes me want to go back and watch The Matrix. He’s also accompanied by a competent cast that keeps this movie on track. There’s some great world building that makes the movie stand out among other action films. There are a couple of sloppy moments in the screenplay that can raise an eyebrow considering how tight the rest of the movie is, but it wasn’t enough to take me out of the experience for a single second.
John Wick gets a 92/100