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John Wick – Joint Review


Release Date: 24 October 2014 [USA]
Director: David Leitch & Chad Stahelski
Writer: Derek Kolstad [Screenplay]
Cast: Keanu Reeves - Michael Nyqvist - Alfie Allen

Posted November 10, 2014 by

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John Wick – Joint Review

Theo’s Perspective:

It is always a bit apprehensive to see someone’s first movie : in that case, it is the first “someones’ “ movie because it was actually directed and produced by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, more known for their stunt figures in such movies as ‘The King of fighters’, ‘V for Vendetta’, ‘Bloodsport’. That being said, how can one put his mind before going to see their first film directed and produced together ? I guess part of the answer is their choice of casting Keanu Reeves : I wouldn’t have gone to the theater if it wasn’t for him in the first place…

Is it necessary to go back on the career of Keanu Reeves here ? The ‘Matrix’ saga, ‘Speed’, ‘Point Break’, all of those are proof of the ease Keanu Reeves has in the Action genre. Yet again, must he be properly directed for the result to be as efficient as possible. And I think he was.

Although I would try and be moderate in my remarks, ‘John Wick’ is the most typical vengeance story you can get : a man get robbed of his Mustang, and his dog killed in the process, claims revenge, kills everyone on his path, the end. The thing is, this man is not a nobody, he used to be the Boogeyman of the mob he works for, before getting married. Since his wife died, all he have left from her is the dog : maybe this is why he got so pissed off when it died. And of course, the only man in the mob who didn’t know who John wick was is the son of the mob’s boss, the very same brat that wanted his car, knocked John out, and killed the dog in the process. It was, by the way, the weirdest choice to have cast Alfie Allen (from the ‘Game of Thrones’ series) to perform as the boss’ son : the relationship to his father is exactly the same as in the Game of Thrones : he wants to prove himself to his father (Michael Nyqvist from ‘Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol’, the Swedish ‘Millenium’ saga), but his father disapprove of his choices, discrediting him in front of his associates. So, yes, maybe Alfie Allen knew all along about this kind of character, but it doesn’t serve him will to be only seen in this kind of wimpy frustrated kid.

So yes, the story is not that great, but I will emphasize that some tiny points in the story are priceless : the network created around the assassin’s world that John once belonged, their economy, their rules, codes and punishments, the kind of details that doesn’t give much to the story, but a true credibility to the universe where this story takes place.

An other good surprise was the music : how can we describe the feeling of earing a Marilyn Manson song as the camera travels above the New-York City skyline ?? Every single sequence involving gunfight has is own musical score, and every time it is chosen well, almost displayed in rhythm with the bullets pumping out of the barrels. And of course, these gunfight sequences are directed and edited to the perfection : John Wick is the Machine everyone should fear. I particularly enjoyed the nightclub sequence which really sums up the directors ability to create the most perfect gunfight sequence that I had seen in a while.

But, like they say, there’s always a “but”. I wish I could stand for this movie, and defending it for its entertainment purposes. If you have already seen the film, you will find that I have (purposely) forgot to say that the mob boss and his son are Russian. And it is the third time this month that I’m watching a movie where Russians are intentionally the bad guys… And this pisses me off. Not that I am a Russian myself : I’m not. But why on earth do the bad guys have to be from this country, or this religion, or whatever ? Was it not enough to have one mob boss and his son ? No, they had to be the Russian mob boss and his Russian son. My point is, movies are form entertainment, it should be used to spread political ideas to make believe that one party is supposed to be good and the other party is supposed to be bad. We’re not in the 1970’s anymore, and it is not because the American policy is to designate Russia as a potential deadly enemy, that it is true and that we have to suffer their ideas in our entertainment.

In short, ‘John Wick’ is a visual success and would be a perfect entertainment in the Action genre, if it weren’t for this subtlety. Keanu Reeves’ fans will be pleased to see him in this ‘film noir’ atmosphere, where you can find fun and action mixed together without falling in the action-comedy genre.

Written By:

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 15.21.38

Theo Tessa
Freelance Contributor


Michael’s Perspective:

It’s been sixteen years since The Matrix. Keanu Reeves’ hair is longer, his jaw is grislier and, in John Wick, he looks more pissed off than I’ve ever seen him. At age fifty, he’s joined the ranks of Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington and Sean Penn as the latest middle-aged action star. But the movie is more than just a vehicle.

John Wick’s wife is already dead by the movie’s beginning. Before succumbing to a long-term (but unspecified) illness, she arranges for a dog to be delivered to John upon her demise. It becomes a little glimmer of love amidst his otherwise drab day-to-day. Yet, lovely things don’t last in movies like this and bad things lurk around the corner, in the form of Alfie Allen’s spoilt brat son of a Russian mobster. He and his thugs break into John’s home, kick his ass, steals his car and, for the heck of it, kill his dog. A little Beagle puppy. Named Daisy. (I’m not crying, I swear to God) I can’t be the only one who thinks there is no greater evil on screen than killing a dog. Thus begins John Wick’s return to the life he swore he left behind. He digs up his guns, puts on a spiffing black suit and swears bloody vengeance.

Now, that is the movie in an unrepresentative nutshell. There is quite a bit more. What John Wick has over Taken 3 and The Gunman is its sense of humour. This movie is silly, and the movie-makers know it. One of John Wick’s more ridiculous features is the Continental. Whilst on his “business trip” in central New York Wick frequents this lavish hotel that caters only to the world’s assassins. A home-free for hitmen. Their room service is bang on time. They have a 24/7 in-house doctor. Their laundry service could be better. On seeing the hotel and its eccentric clientele, I already thought this movie was a better take on Hitman: Agent 47 than the previous Hitman movie (with a slap-head Timothy Oliphant).

Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch have history as stunt coordinators and this shows during John Wick’s many action scenes. Reeve’s kung-fu has been replaced by gun-fu. The editing cuts are good and long, showing off some brilliant choreography. Wick blasts through squads of house-breakers and security guards, at times with mathematical precision, others with dancing grace. He’ll pin one guy to wall, shoot a goon to his left, shoot a goon to his right then finish his sorry sod of a captive last. The hand-to-hand fight scenes are impressively technical with the Brazilian ju-jitsu showing off most. Wick and his opponents often end up on the floor in furious tangles. Legs wrap around necks. Arm-bars make you flinch.

The action scenes are obviously what stand out about John Wick but I was never bored in between. The script is stripped, little to be impressed over while, fortunately, there were few clichés to roll your eyes at. There is little to marvel over in the cinematography elsewhere. Stahelski and Leitch’s past as second-unit directors is evident with plenty of generic helicopter passes over the way-too familiar New York skyline. However, I said there was “little” to marvel over, not “none”. One mid-movie action scene takes place in a night club named The Red Circle (a reference to French crime movie Le Cercle Rouge, one of the movie’s inspirations). On one floor we have a deafening rave with revelers packed like sardines. That’s the Michael Mann floor. On another level, we have a VIP Turkish Bath room. I called this the Nicolas Winding Refn floor, with its red and blue mood lighting and its neo-80’s soundtrack (“Neo-80’s, see what I did?). Wick’s relentless pursuit of Allen takes him from Refn’s Turkish Bath to Mann’s rave club and it is hands down the best part of the movie.

Keanu Reeve’s performance delivered everything I expected and a little bit more. He’s not the blank-canvass audience avatar from The Matrix. On reading a letter from his wife, mailed posthumously, he breaks down convincingly. During an interrogation sequence, he even loses his cool and screams at a guy! As a result, Reeves’ was nominated for a Razzie Redeemer Award (the only Razzie you want to be awarded with). The movie’s big bad Russian gangster is played by very non-Russian Michael Nyqvist, of Swedish Millennium series fame (thanks to Putin, Russian bad guys aren’t going out of style any time soon). Nyqvist manages to imbue a bland character with some interesting quirks and conflicts. There are also supporters, bit-parts and cameos aplenty. Willem Dafoe plays an old elite assassin who’s ambiguous over whose side he is on. Ian McShane and John Leguizamo play old accomplices of Wick’s. There are also two humorous cameos that fans of The Wire will enjoy.

To finish off, I found John Wick to be a wicked action movie that was not afraid to take the piss out of itself. A cheeky wink from a tired genre.

Written by:


Michael Keyes
Silences Band
Full Contributor


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