FlixChatter Review: John Wick

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‘Don’t judge a movie by its trailers,’ That’s a saying I often live by, for better or for worse. But in the case of John Wick‘s trailer, which was groan and eye roll-inducing the first time I saw it, I’m glad I ignored my first instinct and saw it anyway.

The movie is as lean as its protagonist, the eternally-youthful 50-year-old man that is Keanu Reeves. It’s lean in running time (1 hr 36 min), dialog, as well as plot. The movie keeps things simple and doesn’t try to be anything else but a stylized revenge thriller. All you need to know is that John Wick is a former mob hit man who re-emerges after 5-year retirement when some dumb punks break into his house and kill his dog given by his late wife.

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The swift exposition reveals that those punks are actually the son of his former employer, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). John Leguizamo‘s great in his brief scene as Aureilo, a car shop owner frequented by the thugs who’s also friends with Wick.

Viggo: Why did you strike my son?
Aureilo: He stole John Wick’s car and killed his dog.
Viggo: Oh.

The over-the-top way the movie tells us the protagonist is entertaining and hilarious. The filmmakers – former stunt professionals David Leitch and Chad Stahelski – are in on the joke and they’re smart enough NOT to take things too seriously for this type of action flicks. I read a review from a top critic that says action flick is about movement and given the stunts background of the filmmaker, they certainly subscribe to that adage. I remember critics described the stylized action of Zack Snyder’s 300 as the ballet of death. Here we’ve got the bullet ballet of Gun Fu, which is a martial-arts fighting in close-quarters with firearms that’s common in Hong Kong action cinema. It reminds me of John Woo’s style, but without the doves. Though the style is not exactly groundbreaking, it somehow still feels fresh and a heck of a lot of fun!

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People keep asking me if I’m back…. yeah I’m thinking I’m back

One of the secret ingredients of this movie is no doubt its leading man. Say what you will about Keanu Reeves but he’s got screen charisma. And not only that, he can effortlessly earn our sympathy, which is essential in any revenge fantasy. John Wick may be ruthless, but he’s not heartless and that layer of vulnerability is what Keanu often brings to even his most action-packed roles. His brooding, taciturn and trademark stoic mode is put to good use, as well as his physical prowess in pulling off those action stunts. I’ve always liked Keanu and I really don’t think he’s ever *left* even with the recent big flop of 47 Ronin. All the supporting cast like Willem Dafoe and Ian McShane did a good job despite not having much to do. The two that stood out to me were Lance Reddick in his brief appearance as the hotel manager frequented by hitmen, and Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist who actually makes for a memorable villain this time around. He’s so lame in Mission Impossible 4, but here he displays a genuine sinister side with a sarcastic sense of humor. I also like the fact that Viggo is kind of a reluctant bad guy, he doesn’t really want to fight Wick but he knows he has to. The only character I don’t care for is Adrianne Palicki‘s Mrs. Perkins which is totally unnecessary. It’s as if the filmmakers just want to have a femme-fatale character in here thrown for good measure.

JohnWick_Still4In case you can’t tell already from my review, yes I enjoyed this movie! Armed with gorgeous cinematography by Jonathan Sela, Tyler Bates‘ dynamic soundtrack (who did a great job scoring 300 as well), and bad-ass & kinetic action set pieces, I’m glad I saw this one on the big screen. The action stuff looks gritty and actually fun to watch, sans the dizzying quick cuts or extreme slo-mo that plague most action movies these days. It’d look great in IMAX too I bet, though seeing all those exploding heads and limbs getting stabbed in such a huge screen would’ve been too much for me. Given how violent it is though, the movie is actually not that gory. The gunfights are done in quick succession and there’s no lingering open wounds that make your stomach churn. Still, the scene after scene of carnage does make me wince at times, but hey, it comes with the territory.

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This movie should please action fans with its unabashed love for thrilling, preposterous action and no-nonsense storyline. Again, it doesn’t try to be deep or philosophical, the protagonist just wants to get back to those who wronged him. Pure and simple, the only moral of the story is, ‘don’t mess with John Wick!’ The ending is ripe for a sequel and you know what, I wouldn’t mind seeing it if Leitch/Chad Stahelski and Keanu are involved.

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Have you seen this? Well, what did you think?

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47 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: John Wick

  1. Yay! Glad to hear you enjoyed this, Ruth. A lot of fun in a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but has a number of delightfully nefarious performances. No one is ever going to consider it around awards time, but a fun actioner that has an engaging Keanu Reeves in it. And he does it all without saying, “Whoa” once. 🙂

    p.s., And the absolutely cutest puppy I’ve seen onscreen in decades, too.

    1. High five, Michael! Yes it’s really a lot of fun, nice when a movie lives up to the hype. Keanu is always fun to watch for me but he’s definitely awesome here, bad ass but also vulnerable. Ha..ha.. yep, sans his ‘Whoa’ quip too, though I think it’d be hilarious if he did. I can’t believe I didn’t mention how cute that puppy is, I LOVE small dogs and Daisy is totally adorable!!

  2. Ted S.

    Yup it’s a lot of fun and I’m so glad the directors showed us the action scenes instead of doing the stupid quick cuts and shaky cam. People go to these kind of movies to see the action and it didn’t disappoint. I’ve mentioned before many times, I can’t stand some of the action pictures the last few years, not every action movies needs to be serious or “realistic”. It does look great on IMAX and the surround sound was even better! I’ll be watching it a few times when it comes out on Bluray.

    1. I was wondering if you had seen this one Ted, glad you did and liked it. It’s not pretentious and they kept the story simple, that’s why it worked. Keanu is always great in action stuff so talk about perfect casting. I might actually rent it again when it’s out on iTunes!

      1. Ted S.

        I also thought the trailer was silly looking and didn’t plan to see it. But then I saw it got an R-rating and then the critics were enjoying it too, I decided I want to see it. Yeah Keanu is always good in action movies and here he didn’t have to do much except kick ass and shoots a bunch of thugs in the head, lol!

  3. Nice review, Ruth. I loved the way this movie was shot, such a breath of fresh air! Though I do disagree on the trailer, I was sold from the get-go on this thing, which came completely out of nowhere. Good stuff! 🙂

    1. Yeah, the movie looks beautiful and vibrant, not drab and depressing. Ha! Well after I saw the movie, I went back to see the trailer and I actually thought it was cool 🙂

  4. Great review, Ruth 🙂 I personally loved the fighting-choreography of this movie; it kinda remind me of The Raid: Redemption with guns… and I love the ‘inside’ jokes in the movie, although I need to think about them sometimes 🙂 a definitely must-see again

    1. Hello Paskalis! I haven’t seen The Raid even though it’s filmed in my hometown Jakarta, I heard it’s just a thousand times more brutal than John Wick. But I can see how the fighting style is similar, I’m just glad John Wick isn’t as bloody or gory as I don’t think I could handle it. Yeah I think I don’t mind seeing it again.

      1. That’s quite surprising that you haven’t watched The Raid 🙂 it’s true that it’s way mire brutal than John Wick ’cause the protagonist was using his bare hands (instead of guns) and he’s way less cool than Keanu Reeves hehe

  5. Great review Ruth, I like some of John Woo’s action films so I might catch up on Wick some time. Interesting to read that Adrianne Palicki is in this, she recently joined the cast of Agents of SHIELD.

    1. Oh I saw that Palicki was cast in SHIELD, which make sense since she was gonna be Wonder Woman at one point. Here her character is so underwritten, though the fight scene w/ her was pretty awesome.

    1. Hello Mark! Yes I always want him to do well too, I mean he’s just so likable. Btw, in regards to his name, he said on Jimmy Kimmel his friends call him Charlie as well but I like Chuck more 😉

          1. I’d do the same. Don’t know if I mentioned before but he was playing a gig in Glasgow with his band Dogstar and he just travelled around on public transport like everyone else. Although that’s not that uncommon for our Chuck! 😉

            1. Hey Mark!! I didn’t know that you’ve technically met Chuck in person! WOW that is so cool. What’s he like in real life? He seems very tall and lean, and his Chinese side seems to be more prominent the older he is now, his eyes seem smaller but more intense 😀

  6. I saw the score on imdb and RT for this and I was STUNNED.I mean a movie with Keanu, an action film with a score like that? I’m curious and it has McShane in it but I really can’t deal with dog being killed. Though the whole revenge being because of that? I’d relate to that.

    1. Y’know, I was stunned too as I thought the trailer was laughable! But y’know what, now that I’ve seen it, I get why people love it. It’s entertaining and fun, and it was stylish-ly shot. Not every movie should aim for Academy Award, this one just aims to entertain and it did just that. I was afraid about the dog-killing scene too but fortunately it wasn’t shown in graphic detail and it happened quick. But there’s a scene where a bloody, beaten-up Keanu holding his dead dog and it’s utterly heart-wrenching. You totally get why he’d ruthlessly hunt down those bastards and that’s part of why this revenge fantasy worked well.

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  8. YES! We shared the same score. I enjoyed this as well. (watched it twice!). I too felt that Adrianne Palicki was unnecessary but they tried to give her character some more purpose in the final act so I shrugged my shoulders and said “ok”.

    I watched it a 2nd time cuz I enjoyed it so much and was able to keep track of the body count! wow!

    1. Woo hoo! Glad to hear, T. I’m glad I saw it on the big screen. Had a lot of fun w/ it, but I’ve always been a fan of Keanu. Ahah so how many people did John Wick shot? 😉

  9. Excellent review, Ruth! I hope they do make a sequel. I loved this one as much as you and the next film buff. Totally no-nonsense, and Keanu Reeves is fantastic in it.

    Oh, and I didn’t even bother mentioning Adrianne Palicki in my review because I agree – she played an entirely pointless role. Just thrown in there to add some estrogen. Lol.

  10. Great seeing Reeves getting some good press. I’ve always liked the guy. This is very honest movie and I love seeing people get that. It knows what it is and has fun with it.

    1. Hi ya Keith! Amen on all you said, I’ve always liked Keanu too, he’s such a rare breed in Hollywood. Yep, this is a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of movie and it delivers what you expect it to. I had a lot of fun w/ it, great soundtrack too, been listening to it a lot!

  11. I’m surprised the film is getting pretty good reviews, but the trailer made it look like a blast. If I don’t catch it in theaters, I might rent it at some point.

    1. If you can see it on the big screen, it looks beautiful and the action is really fun to watch. I was surprised of the good reviews before I see it, but now I totally get why.

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  13. Nice review and it is something I also really enjoyed. Amazing to think Keanu is already 50! The fights were awesome and it just shows that you don’t mess with a man and his dog 😉

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