You should never, EVER, hurt an animal; especially if it belongs to John Wick, a recently retired master-assassin who, as the film’s poster states, you do not want to set off. However, that’s exactly the mistake that the son of Wick’s former boss makes, when he unwittingly steals the former hitman’s 69′ Mustang, killing his adorable puppy in the process. As you can imagine, Wick does not take this well and with nothing left to loose, comes out of ‘retirement’ for one of the the greatest, and bloodiest revenge missions in film history; because, well, if you ever kill a hitman’s little puppy, you’re only going to get what you deserve.
The undeniably monotonous Keanu Reeves is, for the first time since The Matrix, back on punchy top form, as the titular character. When we first meet him, he’s in a state of grieving, struggling to come to terms with the loss of his wife, in his swanky, now empty, home. Then the dog-shit hits the fan, and we’re introduced to Wick’s world of assassins, where killing is a natural, matter of fact business. This world is one of the reasons why John Wick is such a success, often straying into the realms of black comedy. From a hitman hotel which acts as a sanctuary for the killers – and where ‘business’ is strictly prohibited – to treasure-like gold coins that are used as payment; to the ‘dinner reservations’ that can be made whenever you need to dispose of a body; it’s a strange world, that works to specific rules, that you just want to see more of.
The way in which nothing seems personal – except for John’s quest for retribution – leads to some really black moments of comedy, that you may not necessarily expect. Apart from the surprisingly tender opening moments, the film never takes itself too seriously, which is great, because it is ridiculous. In terms of the action, it’s easily the most bone-crunching, head-exploding, ultra-violent movie I’ve seen, since Gareth Evans’ The Raid films. This isn’t quite as good as either of those – it lacks the ballet-like choreography, and build up of a Raid film – but at a time where 12a reigns in the cinema, this bloodied and brutal actioner makes for a refreshing change of pace. It packs a punch in terms of style too, with visuals as slick as Reeves’ haircut.
Whilst I don’t think John Wick is as good as many have claimed, it is remarkably entertaining on the deepest, most primal level. It looks really good, which always helps, but it’s the self-aware silliness of it all that really makes the film worthwhile. The action sequences are solid, the cast are all on top form, and it has a really cute puppy. It may not be the modern classic most people think, but it is a bloody good time at the cinema.
Image credit http://www.impawards.com