I’m not a great fan of the action genre, but I found “John Wick” a magnificently absurd, fun, and well-crafted film. Keanu Reeves is likable as always, but it’s really the self-aware script and expert action choreography and direction that makes film stand out above its peers.
The premise is glorious. John Wick’s wife dies, he’s heartbroken, she leaves him a cute puppy to give him something to live for, John Wick bonds with the puppy, sadistic Russian gangsters kill the puppy, John Wick goes on a murderous rampage as revenge. It’s the distilling of the action movie I find so appealing. Usually it’s the extremely overplayed “wife gets killed” cliché that excuses the sadistic in itself rampage action heroes embark on, but making it a cute puppy is absurd enough to retain the same narrative function yet poke fun at it, make it humorous and self-aware. The smartness of the script extends beyond that, with the script having absolutely no fat in it. There’s no romance subplot, no celebrity cameos, no padding – just action, and great action at that. If more action movies were like this, I would be a fan of the genre.
I dislike the cut-cut-cut style of modern action films; it honestly makes me dizzy and I just can’t visually keep track or understand what’s transpiring. In John Wick, directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, editor Elísabet Ronalds, and with choreographer Jonathan Eusebio keep the action fun, engaging, and logical – the choreography is so good you can tell the directors want to show it off, rather than mask it with quick cuts. The visual style extends beyond that restraint to a striking colour scheme heaving on green and purple (the nightclub scene is particularly gorgeous). I can’t overstate how much I prefer action as excellent choreography captured and enhanced by the director’s visual style, to fast cuts attempting to emulate a frenetic feeling in the viewer.
The worldbuilding is subtle but intriguing. Touches like the hitman hotel, the coins, and Wick’s previous relationships help build up a world larger-than-life that supports action film conventions more naturally than a straight realistic action film would.
John Wick is brilliantly self-aware, fun, and unapologetically an action film. It doesn’t try to be anything more, it doesn’t try to pad the film, or add needless subplots, it simply strives to be perfect at what it is and it without a doubt succeeds in that.
I give it three clips, and an adorable puppy.