Film Review: John Wick

Mr Wick is grieving. He’s grieving for the loss of a good woman. More specifically, he is mourning for his wife. John is struggling to cope in her absence, as he passes his days in their magnificent minimalist home. His life is as barren and empty as the restrained architectural minimalism of his surroundings. It is then that a package arrives. It is from his wife. Knowing that he would be alone following her death, she has gifted to him a puppy. It is a companion, a memory of his wife, and a symbol of hope.

Mr Wick falls for the puppy instantly. It is his bridge to his lost life and we follow the two, as the puppy breathes life back into the coldness of John’s existence. One love remained to John following the loss of his wife. It was his car. Immaculately maintained, it sits in the garage of his precise home.

It is when John encounters some unsavoury individuals at the petrol station that the isolated order of John’s life is shaken. His grief is interrupted in a fashion that could create resentment. John is more than resentful, he’s angry. The unsavoury individuals caught the wrong man at the wrong time, because John isn’t just any old grief stricken husband. John is the sort of man you don’t want to anger.

In fact, most people in the crime world seem aware that angering John isn’t a good idea and we see the dominos of recognition fall, as the world braces itself for what is to come, because – as it turns out – one of those unsavoury individuals has a pretty high profile too. It seems the wayward son of a mob boss has collided with John and the repercussions will be serious. Entreaties fall on deaf ears, as what could have been a personal grief is turned into open bloodletting and vengeance.

The violence in John Wick is extraordinary. Keanu Reeves carries the film with extraordinary panache. I was not a Keanu fan. I thought his limited ability to relate complex emotions had hamstrung many movies. This is probably why I was so late to the game with John Wick. Keanu’s physical performance in John Wick, however, is like nothing else. He inhabits the physicality of the role.

Keanu is front and centre of each action sequence. There is little clever editing around the actor. The shots are close and personal, they linger. Keanu sells it. The violence is visceral and unapologetic. John Wick is well drilled and clinically efficient. The character has a very clear combat style; his revolver seems to move as an extension of his martial arts, as he butchers crowds of villains.

I watched John Wick back to back with John Wick 2. Mr Wick’s violence carries its own rhythm and, as evening turned to the early hours, I found myself hypnotically following the flow of his movements, as he shot, threw and locked his way through multiple adversaries.

Keanu surprised me, he was extraordinary, but the true credit for John Wick’s success must go to directors Chad Stahelski and David Letch. They have created action sequences that thud with reality, but flow in the finest tradition of martial arts films. I left the cinema in a gratified haze – extraordinary.

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