Rental Review - John Wick

John Wick (2014), R, 101 minutes - John Wick has been on my 'need to watch' list for quite a while.  Longer than I had realized actually.  I remember hearing good things about it shortly after it was released, but apparently time then got away from me.  I was aware that it was well received enough that a sequel was being made.  What I didn't realize was that the sequel was already completed and being released last weekend.  That's when I decided that it was about time to see what all of the buzz was about.  Nothing like being two years late to the party!

John Wick is a fairly straight forward, but wonderfully made revenge flick.  Wick (Keanu Reeves) is an ex-hitman, known as 'The Boogeyman', who has retired to the quiet life and settled down with his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan).  As the film begins, we learn that Helen has recently passed due to an unspecified illness.  Knowing that John will require something to fill the void left in his life by her passing (besides his classic 1969 Mustang), she leaves him a puppy that he names Daisy.  Shortly thereafter, John encounters members of the Russian mob at a gas station.  One of them inquires about, then insists on buying the Mustang.  John flatly refuses and goes about his day.  That night, his house is broken into, John is severely beaten, and the Mustang stolen.  John eventually wakes to a lifeless Daisy, a casualty of the previous night's events (side note for animal lovers, if you skip to the 15:50 mark in the movie, you can bypass this).  Having literally nothing left in his life that he loves, John goes about tracking down those responsible.

The thing that really surprised me when I finally got around to watching this film was just how many other well known and recognizable actors and actresses were in this film along with Keanu Reeves.  The list includes, but is not limited to: Michael Nyqvist (Viggo Tarasov), Alfie Allen (Iosef Tarasov), Willem Dafoe (Marcus), Adrianne Palicki (Ms. Perkins), Toby Leonard Moore (Victor), John Leguizamo (Aurelio), Ian McShane (Winston), Lance Reddick (Hotel Manager), Clark Peters (Harry), Bridget Regan (Addy), and the aforementioned Moynahan.  Another thing that I was surprised to learn was that John Wick was Chad Stahelski's directorial debut.  He wasn't a name that I was familiar with, but he has a long resume of stunt work as well as stunt and fight coordinating (including being a stunt double for Reeves in The Matrix).  This background certainly served him well as John Wick is action packed and moves along at a pretty good clip once John begins his quest for revenge.  I think my favorite thing about this film is that John, while clearly being supremely skilled, is not an invincible action hero.  There are a couple of occasions, when it appears that his time is up, but he gets an assist.  It's a nice little touch, showing that even the best need a little help or luck from time to time.  He also finishes off each 'bad' guy that he encounters.  It may rack up an insane body count, but no one is going to survive to catch John Wick by surprise!

I'm really glad that I finally sat down with this film and am now very excited to see the sequel (also directed by Stahelski) later today with a little luck.  The story is simple and straight forward, but is set up well, allowing the viewer to connect with John very quickly.  From there, the film steamrolls through scene after scene of action packed badassery that leaves you cheering on the protagonist despite the wake of carnage he leaves behind.

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