You know what John Wick is? John Wick is basically that moment in Collateral when Tom Cruise drills those two thieves in the alley, a shooting so fast and ruthless that the bad guys barely get a chance to go “whoa” before they’re dead. Keanu Reeves‘ titular character gets to kill bad guys as quickly and mercilessly as this all through the damn film. When Cruise did it in Collateral it was fleet and beautiful. In John Wick Reeves does it at least 80 or 90 times — shootings, stabbings, neck-crackings, shotgun blastings, stranglings — and after the 15th or 20th time it’s like “okay, man, I get it — he’s the Terminator.” And everybody in the film, amusingly, knows and respects this. And none of them offer criticisms or warnings of any kind. “Hey, John…okay, cool, no worries…just do your thing.”
Reeves is furious at a gang of Russian mafiosos because…well, it’s complicated but it’s mainly because his wife is dead but also because the flaming asshole son of the gang leader has goaded his colleagues into a home invasion in order to steal Keanu’s muscle car. But in so doing they kill a little puppy that Keanu/Wicks’ late wife bought him when she knew she was toast. That’s it, man…cholo.
John Wick is basically Grand Theft Auto — a movie that’s solely about whacking bad guys with lightning dispatch, whacking bad guys with lightning dispatch and, just to break up the monotony, whacking bad guys with lightning dispatch.
It’s a movie as primitive and primal as an ape, but it does wield a dry sense of humor and a kind of relentlessly dope(y) attitude. It’s an “ironic” flick for hip critics and cretins alike — no plot, no characterization to speak of, just the basic wham-bam-slam-thunk-whoof…aaggh! Director Chad Stahelski (Keanu’s Matrix stunt guy) knows how to kill really fast, mean and hard. The film is choroegraphed as efficiently as any Gene Kelly-Arthur Freed MGM musical. Stahelski (the name of a pool guy or a hot-dog man at Pinks or a garbage man or a guy whose grandfather worked in the same New Orleans factory as Stanley Kowalski) and screenwriter Derek Kolstad refuse to do anything more than stage fucking action scenes but the thing zips right along. I’m sorry but I really love seeing bad guys get shot in the head, chest, stomach, leg, neck, back and balls. No pause, no last words, no mercy…just “fuck you” and “bye!”
I chuckled maybe four or five times. I was vaguely bored but not enough to leave. I usually hate stupid shoot-em-ups but this one has a little something extra. I’m repeating myself but I’ll say it again — I didn’t hate it. That’s saying something.
John Wick is far from Michael Mann, but it’s the best action film Reeves has starred in since the original Matrix (’99), and that ain’t hay.