Movie Review - John Wick

This movie is basically The Equalizer (2014). Instead of Denzel Washington going around killing a bunch of Russian or Eastern European mobsters, this time it's Keanu Reeves. The difference is that Reeves' titular character is a hit-man and highly-trained assassin who used to work for those mobsters. Washington's titular character was a FBI agent.

This is a revenge flick where we're supposed to delight in the murder and mayhem, and we're supposed to cheer for what is essentially a serial killer. It was easier to do with The Equalizer because he started as a good guy. However, John Wick started out as a bad guy, so there is no sympathy to be had. The movie comes down to a face-off between John Wick and the mob kingpin, so if there's any joy to be had, I suppose it's over these bad guys cannibalizing each other.

By the end, the characters on screen are laughing at the situation because the situation is laughable. John Wick launches into a murderous rampage all because his car was stolen and his dog was killed. He puts a lot of sentimental value in the dog, but by the end he grabs another dog at random and easily replaces the dead dog, which leads me to think maybe the dead dog wasn't all that special.

The problem is that the screenplay isn't smart. Written by Derek Kolstad, John Wick is built up as not the boogeyman but the man one sends to kill the boogeyman. John Wick is described as one of the best. His identity clearly isn't unknown to the ones who oppose him in this story. It's not as if they're not aware of his abilities, so why they're not smarter about how to handle him is baffling.

Viggo, played by Michael Nyqvist, is the crime boss trying to stop John Wick from exacting his revenge. Viggo knows all about John Wick, but his strategy to take John Wick down is stupid. It makes no sense at every turn. His first strategy gives John Wick total home court advantage.

John Wick targets Viggo's son Iosef, played by Alfie Allen. Instead of getting his son out of the city and into a totally secure location, Viggo puts his son into a place with a lot of windows, easy for John Wick to shoot through, and that's so open and porous. At one point, Viggo hits John Wick with a car and knocks him unconscious. Instead of killing John Wick right then and there, Viggo takes him to have a conversation. It's stupid.

Like with The Raid 2, the protagonist could have easily been shot dead, but yet directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, former stunt coordinators and second-unit directors, would rather prolong things for a crazy car chase. Prior to that, the film is just frenetic choreography geared for a flurry of gun shots that's just head-shot after head-shot.

Keanu Reeves' perpetual anger but determination makes him more like a raging Terminator but one who is more of a dancer, obviously to allow Reeves to express his martial arts. Yet, it's just too cold and brutal. It's appropriate because this movie has no moral center, but the audience is meant to find that funny.

Even the reticence for a police officer to interfere or try to stop John Wick is meant to be a joke. It's not funny though. It's sad and it's horrific.

One Star out of Five.
Rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 41 mins.


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