Dir: Chad Stahelski (2014)
Keanu Reeves stunt double Chad Stahelski delivers an intense action film about a retired contract killer (Reeves) who seeks revenge on the Russian gangsters who murdered his puppy. Yes, you read that right, his puppy; A rather well-trained puppy at that which was a parting gift from his terminally ill wife (Bridget Moynahan). Thankfully the ensuing chaos isn’t dogged (sorry) by overly long exposition or a grander meaning, or for that matter, a twist. This is a pure red-lined, neck snapping revenge film which doesn’t ask too much of its audience, letting a pretty damn good Keanu take the brunt of the beatings.
Derek Kolstad‘s flat out dumb first act sees the anti-hero’s sun-kissed relationship with his new bride turn into a grey tinged melodramatic montage which, thankfully, wont take up too much of your time. This Up inspired tragedy plays out in a hyper real comic book world; The kind where it always rains at funerals. Daisy, the little bundle of joy which arrives on Wick’s door step, helps our long-haired, bearded, dark horse begin his grieving process, which mostly consists of hand braking his 1960s Mustang across huge stretches of airport tarmac without a seat belt and screaming.
This is as deep as John Wick gets and thank god. When his dog is murdered and his four-wheeled pride and joy is taken from him in a home invasion by the bratty son of a crime boss (Alfie Allen) Wick cracks open out the knives and Guns and hits the street as the film finds its throttle. There’s an ominous presence in hired killer Willem Dafoe and a just passed it mobster in Michael Nyqvist’s vodka swigging head honcho; They know what Wick is capable of and Stahelski and Kolstad take great joy in showing us with no fewer than 7 action set pieces.
Sadly DGA red tape sees producer David Leitch’s name stricken from the directors chair but the pair have made a fun pulpy B actioner which isn’t over cut, over long or over cooked. The fact that you can actually see what’s going on as Wick shoots, stabs and breaks an endless supply of mobsters is a breath of fresh air in today’s action cinema. Plus you aren’t staring down the barrel of a two and a half hour-long film which takes itself seriously at all. Reeves is surprisingly strong, even with the 80s film references flying, this is his Rolling Thunder; A, puppy loved, brain-dead, gleeful bloody mess which just works with all its flaws.