John Wick is a really cool movie. It is a near perfect execution of a standard formula. In fact it is a formula so overused the film is bordering on parody but never actually gets there which is the perfect amount of self aware. The formula being that an ex military/assassin/ whatever finally got out of the business but then his wife dies and the old job comes back to bite him. Naturally our hero has lost everything that kept him human and the only thing left is to kill everyone. This is what John Wick does and he does it oh so well.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves of Street Kings fame) is an ex mob enforcer who did the jobs that nobody else would do. “He’s the one you send to kill the boogyman.” this of course gave him the nickname of the Boogyman (don’t think about that too hard). John’s wife has died of cancer or something (or did she!?) and the only thing left of her is her puppy she got John so he wouldn’t be lonely when she was gone. So life is good until John meets Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen of getting his privates cut off fame) at a gas station, and Iosef likes his car. That night at the Wick house a home invasion takes place, John gets hit with a baseball bat and his dog is murdered in the same way I assume all dogs are murdered in movies, off screen and with a yelp.
The first 15 minutes or so make you think that this film will be somewhat realistic as John’s life is pretty standard and 3 men get the better of him pretty easily. This is not the case though, I assume the loss of his dog re-unlocks his superpowers because John Wick proceeds to kill a TON of people with little to no hardship. John Wick never goes to the insane level though of … Bullet time or backflips, it keeps within the level Bourne or James Bond realism.
The action of course is why you would see the film and it delivers in spades, the directors of this film are both former stunt men and it shows, there isn’t a gunshot or fist out of place and the camera work does a fantastic job of balancing frantic intensity with the viewers ability to keep up. John is basically like that mechanic in Splinter Cell Conviction where you make and kill targets, except he instantly marks every single person. This intensity is contrasted nicely with a weakness almost in hand to hand combat where the key fights are a long and brutal endeavor that actually feels like each person is fighting for their life.
If you know me you know I’m a big Keanu Reeves fan. Like his acting or not you have to admit that he gives it his all in every role he plays and definitely respects the material given to him. In the hands of every other big action star John Wick would turn into a wise cracking macho guy but as played by Keanu he feels like a broken man. This leaves room for all the other characters to bring the lighthearted moments. The main boos of this Russian mob knows of John’s infinite power and his constant belief that he is going to lose is really pretty funny. Even when he has captured John in a classic torture but dude escapes scene he still knows John will probably escape and kill everyone even if he can’t think of how it will happen. This all leads to a great final battle where you really are almost rooting for the underdog bad guys.
John Wick is a great balancing act of seriousness, action and humor. Rest assured it pulls off all three of those things with near perfect execution.