Many times, audiences cannot overlook thin plots (read: The Equalizer) and ridiculous, over-the-top action (anything by Steven Seagal). John Wick has a bit of both, but the grit keeps the film skidding along for 140kph through the dirt road of nostalgia and it feels familiar.
The martial arts in the film is inherently new school for an action movie. There are the usual Kung Fu skills mixed with some Wu Shu. But martial arts like Judo, Aikido, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Muay Thai – all of which are taught on this island – are a big part of Wick’s arsenal and it’s refreshing to see.
While there are several “yippe ki yay” moments, it’s the journey in which Keanu Reeves’ character had taken before that brings the intrigue.
John Wick is a former assassin who had gone into retirement. Years later, just days after the death of his wife, a chance encounter with the son of a major mob boss lures Wick back into the life he had fought so hard to leave.
From the get-go the audience learns that this man just wants to grieve and move on with his life. But one night changes all that and the audience slowly learns what makes him tick, who he is, and what skills he has. If the beginning of the film is marked with flowers and tombstones, the end of it is highlighted by blood and more tombstones.
Unsavoury yet interesting characters dot the entire film: the concierge of the hotel, the femme fatale, the assasin friend, the hotel owner – all of them help peel back the onion of John Wick’s personality and it all ends in tears for the bad guys.
Some plot twists do throw the film in a bit of a mish-mash towards the end of the film and the title character’s goal changes – all he wants is revenge. While he does manage to live up to his billing as a world-class assassin with disregard for human life (when he has to be), there’s no question that John Wick is avenging the wrongs committed against him and others he knew. A renewed sense of purpose marks the final act and the film is all the better for it.
John Wick seems like the first film in a franchise, which, given how well-made this first one is, wouldn’t be a bad idea.