MOVIE REVIEW: ‘John Wick’ Delivers Thrilling Action And Little Else

John-Wick-Movie (11)

Film: John Wick
Starring: Keanu Reeves
Directed by: David Leitch, Chad Stahelski

Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned, but neither can hold a candle to the rage that fuels John Wick after losing everything he loves.

The world is a very cold and cruel place when we first meet John Wick, and rarely in the 96 minutes that follow do things ever look up. Hidden away from society after years spent in a life of crime, Wick is a strong and quiet man who is trying his best to mourn the untimely loss of his wife. Her death, brought on by medical issues, has left him searching for purpose in a world he only cared about when she was in it.

One night, following a strange encounter at a nearby gas station, John awakes to find intruders in his home. They knock him around, steal his car, and do something awful to his newly-adopted puppy before leaving John passed out in a pool of his own blood. When he awakes, the sun is out and the men have gone. John tries to stay calm, but before long he pieces together the identities of the men responsible and sets out to unleash his own brand of violent justice.

I’m not sure I would go as far as to call John Wick a ‘noir’ in the classic sense, but it definitely takes cues from that popular genre in order to craft its bleak and bullet-riddled universe. Less than twenty minutes pass from the moment we first meet John to the day after his attack, and nearly every minute that happens after that point is drenched in violence or the talk of violent acts. John is a ruthless killer, willing to take down anyone who stands in the way of taking out the men he views as responsible for his pain, and he never pays much mind to whether or not he is ever making a scene. He kills indoors just as he does when he is on the streets, and the same goes for every crowded place he roams as well. The body count rises, the set pieces change, but what happens after each transition is largely the same: John enters, says a few cheesy lines about not backing down or not giving up, kills bad guys, gets a new piece of information about the true villain’s whereabouts, and leaves.

John Wick would likely be written off as another dull action effort if it weren’t for the extreme level of badassery with which Keanu Reeves portrays the lead role. It has been a little while since Reeves was given the chance to carry a major action film, but here we learn that time has only improved the screen veteran’s impeccable delivery. It’s often hard to differentiate between the characters a particular star plays, as many roles today are written in a way that cater to an individual’s traits, but the way Reeves portrays John Wick is different from anyone else he has brought to life on screen. There is no regret in John Wick’s heart, nor is there any real sense of sympathy for those he must gun down in order to reach his true foe. He is simply heartbroken, and through his speech and actions Reeves allows audiences to see what the weight of heartache can do to a man’s soul.

This is not a perfect film. Though its violence is engrossing and largely original, John Wick has little else to offer viewers for the majority of its runtime. This is very much a straightforward tale of a man on a mission, and to make matters worse there is rarely a moment when we doubt his ability to complete his journey. All we’re really able to do is kick back, count the bodies as they fall, and wait for John to feel as if his thirst for vengeance has been quenched. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t begin to wonder just how many nameless and essentially faceless bad guys would have to be shot in the face before the credits would roll. I lost count around 57.

John Wick is a thrilling ride, but how many miles you get out of your journey will vary greatly from person to person. It’s not the kind of astounding action film that people will still be talking about in five years, but at the moment it’s one of the best and most grisly entries the action genre has received in some time. Keanu is great, the gunplay is heavy, and the entire thing looks really good. With a little more substance this film could be something special, but as is John Wick is good enough to please those still willing to pay for a trip to the movies and that’s more than I can say about most films released this year.


Review written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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