Action for action – Ever wonder what defines a good action thriller? Is it the guns or special effects? Or is it something that doesn’t make you think and flat out entertains for the better part of two hours? I say it’s both, as the best action thrillers will have all of the above, plus a little something you don’t expect. Dramas and comedies may get all the kudos come award time, but its action flicks that tend to steal all the money at the box office. I’m not saying one is better than the other; I just know that if I want to go to the theater and think about nothing for the next 110 minutes I will choose a mindless action thriller like “John Wick” every time because you’re rarely disappointed thanks to expectations that are all but buried.
The story in this one…follows one John Wick (Keanu Reeves), who after losing his wife to cancer receives one final gift from her, a dog. This dog, to which she named Daisy, would help him cope with her death as he tried to move on. One day, after taking a joy ride with Daisy in his vintage ’69 Mustang, he is approached by a Russian at a gas station who wants to buy his car. Unwilling to part ways, he politely says no which draws ire from the stranger who continues to insist. John eventually leaves and goes home, but later that night he is woken up by the same Russian (Alfie Allen) who broke into his house with a few others. Even though they only came for the car, they beat John up and killed his dog right in front of him. That was a mistake, as John Wick was no ordinary “mark.” Turns out, he used to be a hired killer dubbed the “Boogeyman” who worked for Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) the top Russian crime boss and father of the guy that just stole John’s car. Talk about an odd coincidence, but one John was not laughing about once he decided to seek vengeance leading to a more than satisfying conclusion that might leave you with an odd smile.
Acting out – For a film that very few will give a second glance to, the cast is actually one to take notice of. Outside of Keanu Reeves, who I will get to in a moment, we got a chance to see a couple savvy veterans like Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane and Michael Nyqvist. None of them were present all that much, but each played an intricate role in the film that if nothing else made it seem bigger than what it was; especially Nygvist, who was able to show a different kind of charisma than we saw from him in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Having a good “bad guy” makes all the difference in an action thriller like this, so Nyqvist was a good find by first-time director Chad Stahelski. He added just the right balance opposite Keanu Reeves, who finally found something he could shine in. It reminded me of the days when he was wowing us as Neo in “The Matrix” series, making me wonder why we haven’t seen him more in this genre. He’s good at this and with any lucky, maybe he will start popping up in more action thrillers down the road.
Gratuitous eye? It’s hard to know exactly what director Chad Stahelski and producer David Leitch were aiming for with “John Wick,” but for all intent and purposes, it worked. With a relatively low budget, they made it seem bigger than what it was which ultimately gives it quite the street credit. All too often we get caught up with what a film should or shouldn’t be. “John Wick” doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not, which by the way is a good idea in this genre. Of course it’s ridiculous at times, but who cares when it’s so much fun to watch. The fight sequences and gun battles alone reminded me of what we saw in “Mr. & Mrs.’ Smith,” which is not the worst comparison. In fact, I was even caught off guard a few times with just how smooth some of the action was. Stahelski really did his homework to ensure the story and action balanced out in a way that kept you interested throughout. That’s big for this kind of film which finds a way to win you over and over again the longer you watch.
Bottom Line – “John Wick” might not be on the top of moviegoer’s lists, but I have a feeling it could be if more viewers like me happen to stumble in to watch it. Maybe that’s overselling it a bit, then again, can you blame me when there’s not much else out there to talk about?
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