“John Wick” is a thrilling, ass-kicking adventure through a fantastical veneer of underground assassins.
The film, directed and written by Derek Kolstad, stars Keanu Reeves as the titular character, a master assassin who is called back into action after an extensive period away from the profession. Wick is taken back into the world of professional killing by a cast of characters all with their own mythic back stories and agendas. Wick goes on a revenge-fueled spree dedicated to getting his honor back with every manner of action-packed violence to boot.
The obvious feature of the film is that it is quite visually stunning. This is an across-the-board judgement. Everything from the fight choreography to the cinematography is wonderful to look at. Even when Wick suffers horrible and violent tragedy in the beginning of the film, the way the scene is shot lends itself well to making the audience feel those tragic feelings right along with him. That is the most noteworthy aspect of the visuals: the experience of the visuals is completely thought-out and deliberate. There isn’t a shot in this movie that isn’t by design.
Wick’s characterization is told beautifully in the sequence of the film alone but also through his dialogue. Every line of dialogue is expertly crafted to tell the story without treating the audience like they’re stupid.
As the film progresses, the mythology of “John Wick” unfolds for the careful eye to see. The film clearly exists in the real and modern world but throughout most of the film, the world of the assassins and their ways of conducting business creep over and bring us into a world unlike our own. Even though we know that the world of assassins and hitmen is supposed to be underground, we aren’t fazed when Wick begins shooting bullets or fighting hand-to-hand with six men. The film makes us believe that the assassin world is the real one and ours is fiction. That’s the power of all the elements in the film coming together.
Though many action films glorify violence, the way the fight scenes are presented in “John Wick” are artful and respectful of the fact that the violence John Wick commits is not meant to be admired. Wick’s actions in the film consume him as he raises his body count higher and higher. There are certain touchpoints throughout the movie that truly show that Wick doubts his progress away from the life of a professional killer, but he knows that he can’t stop until his work is finished, and his honor is restored.
“John Wick” is a film about vengeance and how such a path can end in nothing good. It may feel good in the moment, but vengeance does nothing to heal the conscience of those afflicted by it. “John Wick” is a film that teaches us that retribution for past deeds isn’t always the right answer. “John Wick” is a movie that you should take a second look at, for a quick little blast into the past.