What do you get when you take the action from Man On Fire, Heat, Collateral, The Killer, Hitman PlayStation games and countless Anime and Hong Kong action films, and then blend them all together? I’ll tell you what you get – you get John Wick baby!
Ultra stylized and ultra violent (and surprisingly so in this era of 12-certificate commercialism), John Wick really is every PlayStation FPS (first-person-shooter) gamers’ dream come true.
The movie tells the story of Punisher-like badass hitman John Wick (nicknamed The Boogeyman), who has retired from a life of violence to settle down with his wife. He is left grieving when his wife (Bridget Moynahan) dies of illness, and takes console in the cute Beagle puppy she leaves him as a parting gift. Then the shit hits the fan when a Russian punk decides to break into his home to steal his 1969 Ford Mustang, killing his puppy in the process. Bad move. John Wick learns that the punk is the spoilt brat son of his former Russian Mafia boss (Michael Nyqvist) who just wants a truce, but Wick is having none of it. Armed to the teeth, he sets about exacting revenge the only way he knows how – shoot everyone until there’s no one left. That’ll do it!
The characters exist in their own universe with their own set of rules and regulations that they all abide by (almost!). No killing in The Continental, for example, a lavish hotel (owned by Lovejoy!) that exclusively caters to assassins, with the rule that no ‘business’ can be conducted on the premises. And the services of a handy clean-up crew can be utilised for all your body-disposing needs!
Directed by Keanu’s Matrix stunt-double Chad Stahelski, the action choreography is extremely impressive. The camera glides around effortless as Keanu dispatches each bad guy with violent precision - usually resulting with a killer headshot! John Wick simply oozes Hong Kong cinema. Take note Michael Bay: zooming in on the action in extreme close-up and performing 20 edits per second does NOT make for dynamic action!
Overall the film looks extremely stylish – Stahelski employs a disorientating narrow field of focus that really amps up the style levels. There is also a quirky use of subtitles very similar to Tony Scott’s Man On Fire. And the character John Wick is a role tailor-made for Keanu Reeves – low on dialogue, high on action. Keanu is simply awesome – he brings a ruthless coldness to John Wick but a huge likeability factor too. He is just... well the only word that I can use to describe Keanu as John Wick is cool. He is just cool. Keanu also impressively did about 90% of his own stunts, and it shows. Whether he’s diving around shooting baddies or engaging in bone-crunching close combat, you never EVER get taken out of the experience, unlike some action movies where you realise that a very obvious stunt-double is being used.
And of course, the element that really stood out for me, separating John Wick from standard Hollywood action fare, was the character’s cold and precise utilisation of the headshot. Seriously, the number of headshots in John Wick is absolutely insane and will literally blow your head off! Any baddies wishing to take John Wick on, be warned: you won’t be let off with just a tap-tap to the legs or chest - he will finish you Call of Duty-style with a brutal execution shot right in your melon!
Headshot heaven!! Lesson learned: do not mess with a man’s car... or puppy!