005/2019 – John Wick
(Chad Stahelski & David Leitch/2014/US/101 mins)
“When a gangster’s son steals his car and kills his dog gifted by his deceased wife, ex-hitman John Wick takes on an entire mob to get his revenge.” This summary on Netflix is all the movie is about. But the key to its high entertainment value is in the detail, not just in John Wick’s but also in the other supporting and minor characters.
Wick (Keanu Reeves) likes his cars, guns, and his bourbon. He knows everyone in business, just as everyone knows him. He is revered, and he is feared. He is the best, which is why even a four-year hiatus has done nothing to erode his reputation, except make his return to the world of mobs and assassins even more enigmatic. His target is Iosef (Alfie Allen), son of his ex-boss and friend, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist). What follows is plenty of video-game-based action sequences of Wick in pursuit of Iosef, obstructed by rivals and supported by allies (Ian McShane, Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo). Interestingly, even a visit to a doctor yields something that sounds a lot like a power-up. It made me smile.
The best thing about this movie is the stunning action choreography, which is such a welcome departure from deliberately shaky camera-work, too many shots pieced together, and hi-fi stunts or CGI work. One actually sees Reeves, who has done 90% of the stunt work himself, using his hands and body as he goes through long-take after long-take, engaging with the mobsters in hand-to-hand combat and shooting them in their heads. Such a relief to actually be able to make out what is happening on screen during a fight.
There are also tons of homages: Shibumi (novel), Le Cercle Rouge (1970), Constantine (2005), The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), Point Blank ((1967), and The Killer (1989), have been quoted as inspirations by the directors, among so many more. John Wick is fun to watch because it is 100% loyal to its genre.
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