“Do I look civilized to you?” says John Wick to his nemesis,Viggo Tarasov. Well, no, but nothing in “John Wick” is civilized except Wick’s love for both his recently deceased wife and his new puppy, Daisy. Written by Derek Kolstad and directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, “John Wick” is the story of retired hitman Wick (Keanu Reeves) and how he’s forced out of that retirement.
After his wife, Helen (Bridget Moynahan) dies (seen in flashbacks and phone video), Wick receives a puppy sent from Helen prior to her death, to keep him company. The scenes with the puppy and Wick are very endearing and the two quickly bond. Out one day for a ride with Daisy, he stops at a gas station to fill up his beloved ’69 Mustang, and is subsequently harassed by some young Russian thugs. One of them makes an offer on his car and doesn’t react kindly when his offer is rejected. It’s that rejection that sets into motion a never-ending cycle of tit-for-tat, kill-for-kill revenge, beginning with Daisy, eventually leading Wick back into the life he thought he left behind.
“John Wick” is not your typical blood and guts film. It’s more artistic in nature with a very slight, dark sense of humor. Directors Leitch and Stahelski are known for their stunt work and in Reeves they are paired with just the right actor. The fight scenes are positively spectacular and have a terrific score working within those scenes.
“John Wick” has an outstanding supporting cast. Willem Dafoe is great as Wick’s friend, mentor and what else? We’re never really sure what his character is up to. Michael Nyqvist plays the elder Tarasov with just the right touch of villainy and humor. Alfie Allen, as the junior Tarasov, is spot-on as the too-big-for-his-britches antagonist. Ian McShane and Lance Reddick are quite good as the mysterious Continental Hotel guest and manager respectively, as is Dean Winters as the dead-pan, right-hand man to the elder Tarasov. John Leguizamo has a fun turn as the no-nonsense mechanic. Rounding out these players is Adrianne Palicki as Ms. Perkins, the take-no-prisoners, would-be assassin. She’s absolutely fantastic.
However, as the movie titles says, this film is “John Wick” and that is most definitely Keanu Reeves. He is just plain fabulous. When called upon to act, he delivers the goods and then some. But when Reeves gets into fight mode, he just astounds.
“John Wick” is not for everyone. But if you are seeking a slightly more nuanced, artistic action flick, you can’t go wrong with “John Wick.” Oh, and Daisy, R.I.P.