John Wick (Keanu Reeves) loves him some Helen (Bridgette Moynahan). In fact, after spending a bit of time with one John Wick in the next couple of hours of this brutal action film 'John Wick', it would seem Helen Wick is one of the… if not the most important person on the planet Earth since John's love of Helen keeps John in a good way. Sadly, Helen is not long for this world. No shenanigans or revenge or nothing like that, just a terminal illness and now John Wick is terminally sad. The only thing that is keeping John from complete despair is a parting gift given to him from his beloved wife, that being the world's cutest puppy you will ever want to see. Please… for all that's holy… don't let anything happen to this dog.
Unfortunately on one dark evening some really mean people break into John's house, steals his classic Mustang and kill his dog. One might wonder, as we will soon see John in action, how these three schlubs got the drop on John so easily being how John is a badass to end all badasses… but this easy enough to explain because John didn't see it coming. Because one would have to be a total idiot to break into the house of John Wick, beat him senseless, steal his stuff, kill his dog… but neglect to kill him. A total idiot.
Say hello to Yosef Tasarov (Alfie Allen)… the idiot. Yosef is the son big time Russian Mobster Viggo Tosarov (Michael Nyqvist) and Yosef is the one who has done this misdeed to John, with Viggo knowing immediately the ramifications of such an action. Now Yosef might be an idiot, no doubt about this, but he is my man's son and as such Viggo just can't allow John to just kill him. He attempts to reason with John. No luck. With that approach having failed, the only thing left to do is to kill John. Good luck with that.
To be completely honest with you, that's pretty much it as far as the plot goes to 'John Wick'. Viggo offers up two million to anybody who can take John out, and provides his son with a virtual battalion of body guards for protection. All that's really left for us to do, as the audience, is to watch John Wick athletically, stylistically, methodically, brutally, and ritualistically mow down hordes of faceless gunman en route to his goal. And that was enough for us.
I must admit the mere existence of this movie 'John Wick' surprises me somewhat. Stallone's 'Bullet to the Head', Arnold's 'The Last Stand', 'Escape Plan', the underrated 'Sabotage', 'Expendables 3'all were decent, hard 'R' action films… except that third Expendables… and all were pretty much miserable financial failures. I had figured that the powers that be would've finally given up on these movies, unless Liam Neeson or Denzel Washington was in them, but here we are with yet another one, starring an actor whose last few outings have been less than well received, though I personally liked both '47 Ronin' and 'The Man of Tai Chi', and surprisingly 'John Wick' is not a miserable financial failure. Maybe the demographic will go see these movies, as long as Stallone and Schwarzenegger aren't in them. I don't know.
So what makes 'John Wick' work, directed by stuntman Chad Stahelski? Part of the success probably lies in the fact that it's so freaking simple. Seriously, there is not a lot of complexity in this movie. They killed John's dog, and now John has to kill the guy that killed his dog. And anybody foolish enough to get in his way. John does give a rather impassioned, albeit brief soliloquy on what this dog represents, and just so you know for the much maligned Keanu Reeves and the shots taken at his acting ability, this was probably the most important scene in the movie and he completely sold us on it. It is the one thing that gave substance to waves upon waves of head shots that we had seen to that point, and will see in the very near future in this movie.
That being said, we're not here crowing Mr. Reeves as the second coming of Marlon Brando or anything, but this director, who knows Keanu Reeves quite well, also plays to his stars strengths. Even though he's fifty something now, Reeves is still very athletic, he still looks good in a suit, he still can say a few words very well, and he's not nearly as pretty anymore… more weathered now… which goes a long way to selling the audience that this John Wick character has been some places and done some things. And that weathered face is going to have to do because we are not getting anything in the way of character development about this guy.
It also helps to have actors such as Michael Nyvquist, Ian McShane, Willem Dafoe, Lance Reddick and John Leguizamo in support of this nonsense, plus to be as brutally violent as it is, and you will be hard pressed to find a movie more violent than 'John Wick', it had some well-placed humor.
'John Wick' isn't the deepest movie around, it's not all that clever or intelligent, and the tale of a revenge minded badass certainly isn't the most original story being told, but this is a movie that knows what it is, and does what it does extremely well. We cannot complain about that.