John Wick knows exactly what it is and does what it wants pretty damn effectively.
Lauren: In the mind of every dog lover, John Wick is who they become when fantasizing of the threat given to anyone who even had the glancing thought of harming their puppy. This is not just “don’t touch my puppy!”; this is “don’t touch my puppy or I will bathe the world around you in blood so that you drown to the point of your last breath, and then I will shoot you in the head.” Oh yes, there will be blood.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, the basic premise of this story is simple: bad men break into the home of a man named John Wick, stealing his Mustang and killing his puppy, the one last connection to his recently deceased wife. The thing is, these bad men don’t realize that the man they victimized is the definition of a bad man. He is John Wick. What unfolds is a whole lot of murderous vengeance at Keanu Reeves ultra violent hands, and if this sounds good to you then you will love this movie.
***Warning: Spoilers littered throughout***
Zac: I think it is safe to say that I liked this movie quite a bit. The action was great, the film was surprisingly handsome and Keanu kicking ass is something I find very easy to watch. He is so convincing as a badass assassin I would absolutely love a future film about his past, or even a TV series based around The Continental. In fact, if some execs are seeing the movie this weekend and not thinking they should be trying to launch a “The Continental” series starring Ian McShane and Lance Reddick, they are doing it wrong.
In fact, the world building of this film is what is most surprising and exciting. The world of underground NYC hitman is a great idea and is wonderfully explored here. It all comes across so naturally too, never bothering to waste a scene for exposition of how it all works, the only complications around it was maybe shoehorning in a bit too much character into someone that didn’t really need to be fleshed out. The Adrianne Palicki character just didn’t quite work and felt a bit too contrived, even for a film like this, but I love her presence. Big fan of Palicki!
Lauren: I’m going to agree completely with all you’ve said. The Continental is probably my favorite part of this film. Just the idea of it is exciting! And as you say, the possibilities are there for the taking and I want to see them all.
Palicki definitely deserves credit for her fight sequence and I appreciate what they were showing with where her character ends, but that goes back to my love of this brotherhood of assassins and wanting to know more about it. As for the story, it doesn’t fit, I have no idea why she would take a meeting with someone she knows she has ticked off, and it just adds more runtime to a film that was starting to drag slightly. If they could do it all over again, I say dump her down the trash/laundry shoot after the fight and be done with her.
After Reeves gives Game of Thrones fans some much needed satisfaction following book/season 1 of the series by quick tapping Theon Greyjoy after all Wick went through trying to get to him, I was kinda done with the movie. The heavy sigh of relief had been expelled. He did what he came to do, and everything following was bonus, for better or worse. I know that in the context of this world no way Reeves could leave papa mob boss alive after what he did, but their final fight was pretty stupid because you know how one sided it is going to be. And then Reeves stabbed himself? I dunno… It was weird.
With all that said, everything up to that is pure joy. Reeves was amazing and unless they had a twin doing stunts it looked like he put a lot of hard work into those scenes. Some might miss it due to the violence, but it really is a beautiful looking film, and I half expected Ryan Gosling to be the one fighting through the colorfully lit sets instead of Reeves. And then I felt bad for cutting Reeves short. Maybe it’s just because I haven’t seen him in something in a while, or maybe it’s because he is often used as a joke in many cases, but I gotta give him some major credit for this movie.
Zac: More agreement! What is going on!
The film does drag a little bit near the end, but I think Michael Nyqvist really makes the most of the situation. I loved his over the top bad guy shtick as he knew exactly what the film wanted from him. Everything with Willem Dafoe was also rather contrived as well, but again, I like the actor so it didn’t bother me a whole lot. All a bit unnecessary, but the film works best when it is simply a John Wick getting revenge movie.
Even though the film might drag a couple times, that isn’t to say the film is a bore. The dragging bits only feel draggy because the rest of the film moves quickly and is assembled so damn well. The directors, David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, are first timers, but their long history of stunt coordinating comes through in spades. The aforementioned visual flash is a bit surprising given their credentials, but Zack Snyder took the same route to the director’s chair and that worked out OK from where I am standing.
Lauren: [returning from a much unwanted scowl fest over Batman v Superman thanks to the mention of Snyder] First time directors? Gold stars to them then! I really should be better informed about this stuff like you are, but I didn’t get this far in life by using my brain.
Zac: It is called IMDB.
Lauren: Being first time directors helps with getting them a pass on some of my complaints, then, from the start of the film having short clunky dialogue (the scene between Dafoe and Reeves after the funeral sticks out as the main example of this in my mind), to the drag towards the end. Especially when you consider the positives. The fight sequences are spectacular, and I stand by that claim adamantly even as I laugh at how Reeves holds his gun at his chin from time to time. It was adorably awkward, like Divergent‘s elbow fighting. But I’ll chalk this up to a “keep your hand at the level of your eyes” type defensive tactic (that’s a Phantom of the Opera reference, FYI; just in case there isn’t a strong overlap when it comes to action fans and musical fans with our readers).
To top it all off for the better, there were even comedy bits littered in there, past the gun holding! We’re not talking Cabin in the Woods levels of comedy bleeding in, but the amount John Wick has is right for this movie. Because it’s John Wick, and you will laugh if he tells you to. Or else.
Lauren and Zac’s Final Grade: B/B+