johnlink ranks JOHN WICK (2014)

When I first heard that Keanu Reeves was jumping back into action with what seemed like a generically titled JOHN WICK, I wasn’t all that excited. But the word of mouth on this one was good. So when it hit HBO tonight, I was ready to give it a go ASAP.

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I watched JOHN WICK (2014) on 6.27.25. It was my first viewing of the film.

If JOHN WICK was a TV show with 24 episodes, I would be binge watching it over night. As far as action goes, this is one of the best entires of the 21st century. Great characters, solid writing, good actors, exceptional fight scenes.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

John (Keanu Reeves) is an ex-hitman who has recently lost his wife to an illness. After being targeted by the son (Alfie Allen) of a former Russian accomplice (Michael Nyqvist), John gets back to work with nothing to lose. The world created in JOHN WICK is complex. There is an organization, which may or may not be run by a dude named Winston (Ian McShane). There are multiple hitmen (played by Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, Clarke Peters and others). There are tons of cool characters who seem to run amok in this unnamed city. For fifteen seconds we are introduced to a police officer who quickly recognized John as an assassin who must be on a job, so the former leaves the latter to do his thing.

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When Keanu Reeves made THE MATRIX he was involved with an overt attempt to redefine an action film. JOHN WICK is not so bold. Instead of being about big things, this is a movie about a guy who is pissed that his dog was victimized (and all that symbolizes). But JOHN WICK, without a doubt, is a wonderful example of American cinema turning violence into art. There is a clear pandering to the head-shot video game audience – this is a film in which the titular character shoots literally dozens of people in the head – but the stylized violence goes past gratuitous to a sort of pseudo-reality in which we are all okay with what is happening.

People die frequently in JOHN WICK, sometimes these people are major characters but more often they are nobody. But there is no ceremony in death. Moments of revenge, wether for noble reasons or not, are reduced to simple beats of matter-of-fact work rather than some larger character validation. The violence of JOHN WICK may be extreme, but it is not pointless. It is the language of character.

The actors populating this film aren’t always the largest names, but the lend gravitas. Ian McShane, Willem Dafoe, and Lance Reddick all do very much with little time. Keeping with true 21st century cinema standards, there is certainly a sense that all of this is building to a sequel. But this first JOHN WICK is not a movie which uses all its ammo. There are characters who are introduced and developed in short order, but who live to hopefully see another day in a movie theater some time soon (IMDb says a sequel is in development, but details are scarce).

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This is also a movie which looks great. Modern editing often finds loads of interesting shots in the first fifteen minutes before settling down into conventional film language. JOHN WICK is a movie which constantly shows us cool things, oftentimes stepping back from the action or from the story to give us something interesting to look at. This isn’t done in a pretentious way, all answers to the narrative ultimately, but the movie is nice to look at which can be a rarity for action flicks.

I loved JOHN WICK. I thought I would like it, but I am surprised by how much I dug it. It’s a movie which definitely will go immediately into my standard-bearers for 21st century action.

SCORES

FILM: 7; MOVIE: 10; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 7; BONUS: 1

The bonus is for some downright awesome fight choreography.

7+10+7+7+1=32

FINAL SCORE: 8 out of 10

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~ by johnlink00 on June 28, 2015.

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