The John Wick series is one that I started watching just last year before the release of the second film. I had the first one saved on my DVR for the longest time but I just never got to watching it for whatever reason. The first film was one of the best pure action films that I’ve seen since the original Taken and the second was more of the same. The camera work and fight choreography were great but it was Keanu Reeves’ performance as Wick that put it all together. I can’t wait until the next film.
Synopsis: After the sudden death of his beloved wife, John Wick receives one last gift from her, a beagle puppy named Daisy, and a note imploring him not to forget how to love. But John’s mourning is interrupted when his 1969 Boss Mustang catches the eye of sadistic thug Iosef Tarasov. When John refuses to sell the car, Iosef and his henchmen break into his house and steal it, beating John unconscious and leaving Daisy dead. Unwittingly, they have just reawakened one of the most brutal assassins the underworld has ever seen. (eOne Films)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, and Alfie Allen.
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Director: Chad Stahelski
Running Time: 101mins
Keanu Reeves hadn’t done much since the Matrix so it is nice to see him get a new franchise to strut his stuff with John Wick. Here he plays John Wick, a notorious, deadly assassin who has been brought back to life by some Russian mobsters, following the death of his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan). There was a little more to it, involving a car and a dog, and it was maybe too silly of a premise to initiate the plot but it was easy to forget since the film moved on rather quickly and the rest of the film more than made up for it.
This is a violent film, if you watch carefully. The action was both fast and furious and well executed in every aspect. From the camera work, to the choreography, to the special effects, it was all a joy to watch and some of the best in a long time. Seeing Wick and his general badassery was very satisfying, taking down various bad guys with ease, despite it being mindless. All the action was mindless but not every film has to be cerebral.
The film alluded to Wick’s past as a deadly assassin which was fun to learn, introducing a secret world of assassins with their own set of rules. Getting a glimpse of this world was interesting to see but it would have been nice to see more (and there probably will be more in the next film). We met a few other assassins such as Marcus (Willem Dafoe) and Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) as well as the leader of the society named Winston (Ian McShane). We also got some great comedic moments between Wick and the manager of an assassin hotel named Charon (Lance Reddick).
The film has a distinctive look. It was very gritty and dark, like the characters, but got too dark sometimes. The set design were rather minimalist but no one will really pay too much attention to them as they will be focusing on the action. The film’s villains (Nyqvist and Allen) weren’t particularly impressive or memorable, never going beyond traditional Russian mobsters. Wick’s quest for revenge was compelling, however, as it was easy to relate to his emotional state. Even though Wick was mostly the silent, stoic man who let his actions do the talking, he still had moments of vulnerability which made him more endearing.
Reeves was excellent as Wick, showing considerable range, balancing both extremes of his character, giving him some depth (with more to come) and making him compelling to watch. He was great in the all the action sequences, fully committing himself to the hand to hand combat and the gun fights. Everyone else was good here and had good chemistry with Reeves but they did not even compare to Wick. It was just Wick, then everybody else, as it probably should.
Overall, this was a great action film, excelling at the action, offering a simple yet compelling revenge story, and featuring an excellent performance from Keanu Reeves.
Synopsis: After unleashing mayhem on the criminals who killed his dog, retired super assassin John Wick retrieves his beloved 1969 Mustang from the Russian mobsters who stole it, only to be pursued in a spectacular high-speed car chase through crowded New York City streets. Returning home, John’s plans to resume a quiet civilian life are cut short when Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio shows up on his doorstep with a gold “marker” compelling him to repay past favors. Ordered by Winston, kingpin of secret assassin society The Continental, to respect the organization’s ancient code, John reluctantly accepts the assignment to take out Santino’s own sister, Gianna, the ruthless capo atop the Italian Camorra crime syndicate. (eOne Films)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, and Ian McShane.
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Director: Chad Stahelski
Running Time: 122mins
The first film came of nowhere, with some of the greatest pure action since the first Taken film with Keanu Reeves leading the way playing the notorious assassin. The thing with a lot of action sequels, or even most sequels, perhaps coast on the success of their predecessors but this did not happen here as this new film took what made the first film great and just expanded on it, including the body count.
John Wick (Reeves) just can’t stay retired. He thought he was out before the first film and was pulled back in and this film was no different. The premise from the first film was a little silly but was better this time as a mobster from John’s past named Santino D’Antonio (Scamarcio) showed up to his house, compelling him to do another job for him. Wick refused despite D’Antonio invoking a gold marker to compel him to respect the secret assassin society of the Continental.
After some retaliation from D’Antonio, Wick eventually accepts the job of killing his sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini) so he can take her spot at the table of an international assassins guild. In doing so, he created a chain of events leading to him becoming a loose end and a target for D’Antonio. The first film offered us a glimpse of this secret society of assassins and this film expanded on this, giving us even more, still not enough though.
Wick’s assignment took him to Rome, where we saw the Italian equivalent of the Continental. In hopes of eliminating Wick, D’Antonio put out a contract on him, immediately follow by a multitude of different people receiving text messages, from a violinist, to a sumo wrestler, to garbagemen just to name a few. This gave us an idea of how big the assassin world really was and we didn’t always know who they all were which was exciting and allowed a few opportunities for some dark comedy.
The best part of the first film was the action and it continued here. The same great production value, from the camera work, choreography, and special effects were still here but were done on a grander scale without sacrificing the very personal feel. It was all very exciting to watch and there was more of it this time around. It was also just as fast paced but was broken up this time by more story.
Seeing him take on various henchmen and other assassins was still very satisfying and just as violent, if not more, than the previous film. All the blood really dirtied the rather clean-looking sets. They only elevated some of the film’s best action sequences featuring a New York subway terminal, Roman catacombs, and a hall of mirrors. The villain was a little underwhelming again but it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme.
Reeves was just as good here as Wick. The first film explored him on more of a personal level with his actions motivated by personal tragedy but this one kind of took a step back allowing more focus on the action. He was still very compelling to watch and fun in the action sequences, giving the same level of commitment even with the increased level with a few sequences standing out. Everyone else was good but it was still just Wick and then everyone else which was okay. The first film had more of a definite ending but this one had more of an open ending, leaving the possibility for more films.
Overall, this was a great action film sequel which built on what made the first film so great by doubling down on the action and featuring another excellent performance from Keanu Reeves.