First a warning. This review will contain some minor spoilers for the movie John Wick. As much as I’d like to avoid spoilers, I feel that to say what I need to say I need to state some spoilers.
As I’m about to see John Wick: Chapter 2 in three days time, I decided to do a review of the original movie. Directed by veteran stun coordinators Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, it was released in 2014 and stars Keanu Reeves as the titular character, who is a retired hitman who seeks revenge against a former employer’s son after he kills his dog, a final gift from his deceased wife.
I’ve always felt this film is a bit overrated. A lot of people seem to think this is an action masterpiece, but I disagree. It’s not a bad movie, nor is it just okay, but it’s far from perfect.
See for me, the best action movies don’t just have good action. Take Die Hard for an example. Sure it has some great fights, but that is also complimented by good performances, fantastic dialog, bursts of humor and even a little romance. The character of John McClane is relatable and fun. If John McClane was an accountant who focused less on killing the terrorists and more on sneaking out hostages and trying to negotiate, it’d still be a great movie.
John Wick, on the other hand, has a story which is just a means for action and fairly basic characters which is complemented by some fantastic action and some admittedly good performances with bursts of good dialog. I’m more than willing to say that both the house invasion scene and the nightclub battle are two of the best action sequences of all time, but they make up only ten minutes of the movie.
The other scene I really enjoy is the one where Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) explains to his son Iosef (Alfie Allen) who John Wick actually is. It gives the audience an understanding of what Wick is capable of. The way Viggo describes Wick as an almost unstoppable force is brilliant.
The rest is, well okay. I feel the second half of this movie, once the fight at the nightclub ends is where John Wick really starts to fall apart. The action never gets close to being as good as that scene. There’s no antagonist that actually challenges John Wick, so in the end, he just drops his weapon and gets into a fist fight with Viggo, despite the fact he’s supposed to be a ruthless assassin. You just feel like you’re going through the motions.
There’s also a ton of CGI blood. Honestly, at times I feel this movie would have been better without some of the blood splatters. I can understand it considering the close quarters the movie occurs in, but to be honest the CGI doesn’t really add much to the movie itself.
Keanu Reeves does a good job as John, and he did dedicate himself to the role physically, performing 90% of the stunts himself. Hell, there’s no real bad acting in the movie itself. The problem is really the characters themselves. We’ve seen movies where the protagonist has the same motivations hundreds of times before. There’s nothing all that special about John Wick as a character. To me, Wick just doesn’t have that same edge that a character like Vincent from Collateral or Mr. Longbaugh from The Way of the Gun has.
Still, I think John Wick is a good movie. It’s action scenes, and some of its dialog is enough to elevate it above mediocrity. I still look forward to seeing the sequel. I mean who the hell doesn’t want to watch Ted Logan do some most excellent operating on some totally bogus dudes on the big screen?