Recently widowed, John Wick is given one last gift from his late wife (Brigit Monyahan), a puppy to help him cope with her death. Tacking the pup out in his ‘69 Mustang, which catches the eye of a young Russian gangster, Josef (Alfie Allen, recalling a young Malcolm McDowell). When John declines his offer to buy the Mustang, he and a couple of friends follow Wick home. They beat him, kill the dog and steal the car. Setting in motion John’s revenge quest.
Directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, making their directorial debuts after previously working with Reeves stunt doubling the movie star for “The Matrix” trilogy (1999-2003). Delivering an adrenaline punch to an audience looking for violent distraction. The duo shows a flair for shooting action scenes, of which, the movie offers many highlights. The gun shootouts and martial arts fights are relentless and beautifully photographed, thanks to cinematographer Jonathan Sela, the grungy look of the movie and stylized action sequences comes off as a kind of cross between “The Matrix” (1999) and “Death Wish” (1974). But it is all for not becoming tedious, violence for violence sake.
A potent supporting cast including Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo, Bridget Monyahan, c-list action star Daniel Bernhadt and cult character actor David Patrick Kelly, are terribly wasted, only Palicki has anything to really contribute to the picture. Swedish actor Nyqvist is excellent as the antagonist, an interesting screen presence, who helps carry the movie over a lot of it’s weaker moments, especially the few dramatic scenes. Nyqvist, best known for the original “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy, could become a solid screen villain in the mold of stars like Gary Oldman or John Malkovich. A welcome distraction from the boredom.
The violence is blunt and graphic, overtly stylized to the point of monotony. The revenge movie seems to have few variations, “John Wick” has fewer than most The spirit of Charles Bronson is alive and well, which I should love, unfortunately it is the Charles Bronson of the Cannon Pictures era.
Did I like “John Wick” or not, it’s not that simple. The movie is great looking and well produced, some of the performances are commendable. The nods to previous genre classics are fun, but the movie is underdeveloped and routine. It’s all gloss, violence porn, that manages to become terribly redundant.