Ah, John Wick. This was a nice, fun movie. Let’s tack this onto the list of movies this year that you should really see. Mainly because it’s done an excellent job of world-building and seeing it’s profit margin so far, it’s going to end up some sort of franchise. So honestly you better just hop on the bandwagon of your own accord before somebody else decides to pull you on by force.
Starring Keanu Reeves as John Wick, this movie features a former Russian Mafia hitman who’s wife has recently died of Lost Lenore Syndrome. Given a pet dog by his wife post-mortem to help him grieve, Wick soon encounters Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen), the son of the boss of the aforementioned Russian Mafia. Iosef attempts to buy John’s car because it’s a pretty sweet ride, but John refuses because he likes his sweet ride. Iosef likes the car so much he decides to break into Wick’s house, beat the shit out of him, steal his car, and kill his dog.
This is just one of the many stupid decisions Iosef makes. Not that I mind personally, his utter stupidity (for example, not knowing the former head enforcer of his father’s criminal organization who only left five years previous and helped build the organization) is what drives the plot here.
Now, Alfie Allen is mainly known for playing Theon Grayjoy on HBO’s Game of Thrones, and this movie shows he has an innate ability to play arrogant little turds who are nothing but disappointments to their fathers. So props to you, Mr. Allen. You’ve entered the wonderful world of typecasting.
Now, before we go any further in discussing the plot, composers Tyler Bates and Joel Richard need to be praised for their absolutely wonderful work here. The soundtrack shows a wide variety of range and while there is a small snippet of a refrain that repeats, those instances are seldom and don’t necessarily hurt the film. It’s not going to win an Oscar, but it does it’s job to set the mood.
The cinematography, on the other hand, was a bit of a mixed bag. While the shots themselves were mapped pretty well, the color scheme felt rather bipolar. The image would simultaneously manage to be warm and washed out at the same time, although I’m not sure if that’s a problem with the film itself or the theater cheaping out by using a dimmer projection bulb. Either way, it didn’t aid the experience. Cinematographer Jonathan Sela needs to pick up his game.
Another issue with the visual work was that at some points, the fake blood they were using in firefights would actually splatter on the camera. While it would only be visible for a few frames at a time and was a rather minor issue, the real problem here is that it shows an utter lack of principles on the part of the VFX department. These little mistakes get airbrushed out in every other film, and letting something stupid like this slide here is inexcusable.
Keanu Reeves provided an interesting performance as the lead, although in reflection his character wasn’t as compelling as main antagonist Viggo Tarasov. It’s commonly stated that Keanu Reeves provides a monotone, emotionless performance in his films. That isn’t quite correct. A more accurate description is that he has no emotional range. He displays sadness, rage, and indifference in this film, but there isn’t actually anything in-between. It’s like he immediately shifts between these three moods, and it’s slightly disturbing.
What I did like, however, was his characterization as a living murder machine. Wick would only use one or two bullets per person, and if he couldn’t dispatch them with just one or two bullets, he used an alternative method. In addition, characters had to reload frequently, which is a surprising change in a genre where reloading your firearm barely happens at all. It’s a nice little splash of realism and it’s very refreshing.
But if there is anything in this movie that was spectacular, it has to be the world that writer Derek Kolstad has created. This isn’t just a criminal underworld, a seedy underbelly of society. This is a completely separate culture in it’s own right that we’ve only just begun to explore.
This is most exemplified by the Continental, the crossroads at which all assassins meet. Owned by Winston (Ian McShane), a neutral territory in which assassins can relax in between jobs. The plurality of acquaintances whom Wick is familiar with shows how far-reaching his reputation is, and more importantly, shows that he himself doesn’t exist in a vacuum. That there are more men and women like him, and that there’s a gold mine of opportunity to tell more stories in this setting.
And the best part is the gold coins. The currency used by this secret society of super-villains which really helps exemplify the main theme of this movie. You can’t get out. John Wick tried to get out five years before the movie, but by a twist of fate eventually he gets pulled right back in. Nothing exemplifies that better than an alternate currency not easily convertible to cash, and not usable in the regular world. How can you even attempt to leave when you have no means to support yourself outside the lifestyle?
Wick finds his answer to that question at the end of the film, and you’ll have to find out what that is for yourself. John Wick is certified by PopcornFlicks as a jolly good time and a must-see for anybody who values the Action-Thriller Genre. It’s worth the $15 ticket.