Review: JOHN WICK (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Friday, 7 November 2014

Review: JOHN WICK (2014)

JOHN WICK succeeds as Keanu Reeves' comeback vehicle while the action packed a wallop, but little else matters.

After wrapping up THE MATRIX trilogy with THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS in 2003, Keanu Reeves' subsequent career has been largely erratic with recent movies like MAN OF TAI CHI and 47 RONIN (both released in 2013) failed to make an impact at the box office. However, I'm glad to see that Reeves finally back with a vengeance in JOHN WICK.


Once upon a time, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) used to be a fearless killer working for the Russian mob. But he has left his killing past behind to marry the woman of his love, Helen (Bridget Moynahan, who appears in flashbacks). However, his happiness is short-lived when his wife died of an illness and Wick has been grieving ever since. Then one night, he receives an unexpected final gift from his wife -- a cute puppy named Daisy as a present for him to live his life again. Everything is back to normal again, but it doesn't take long when a young and cocky gangster Iosef (Alfie Allen) and his gang breaks into Wick's home, hurt him pretty badly, kills Daisy mercilessly and steals his classic 1969 black Mustang after Wick refuses to sell the car to him earlier. Soon after Wick recovers from his wound, he retaliates by getting back into his killer mode again, and determines to settle the score against Iosef and whoever that are against him.

Interestingly enough, both Chad Stahelski and David Leitch are veteran stunt coordinators and their first foray into directing a feature is surprisingly rock-solid, particularly in the action department. Speaking about the action, JOHN WICK delivers them in spades. With the help of Jonathan Sela's sleek cinematography and Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir's sharp editing, the action sequences here are top notch. The numerous gunfights, which are imaginatively staged with precision and kinetic flair, are especially exciting to watch for because of the way John Wick shoots his targets with great accuracy. And best of all, the action sequences are shot with a steady hand and none of the annoying shaky-cam varieties that plagued most Hollywood action movies these days.

Keanu Reeves has never been much of an expressive actor, but Stahelski and Leitch manage to make the best use of his limited acting range and casts him well as a remorseless killer. As John Wick, Reeves truly delivers his best in a long while with his signature cool-looking persona and right amount of deadpan humour. Willem Dafoe is competent enough playing a supporting role as Wick's former colleague, Marcus. Adrianne Palicki, in the meantime, is fetching as a female contract killer.

Two gunfight sequences -- one that set in Wick's home, and another scene in the neon-lit nightclub -- are particularly the best action set-pieces in the movie.

As good as the action is, it's a pity that the movie lacks a memorable villain to match the same level with John Wick's nifty skill with guns. Adding further disappointment is the casting of Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist, who appears as the movie's main villain. His role is rather forgettable, which reminds me of his similar lacklustre performance playing the main villain in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL (2011). The plot, which is written by relatively unknown Derek Kolstad, succumbs too much on the same old cliched genre convention, even though he does show a flash of brilliance involving an exclusive hotel for assassins.


Most of the cliches aside, JOHN WICK is a spectacular entertainment worth watching for its rousing action sequences and of course, Keanu Reeves' cool performance.

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