Posted on October 23, 2014 at 5:44 pm
This is a movie directed by two stunt men, which means it is pretty much a first-person shooter video game projected onto a movie screen. But that also means that it is directed by people who really know stunts and the kills on screen (reportedly more than 80) are on display for maximum effect. It delivers exactly what it promises, with a couple of surprisingly sharp and witty touches that lift it above the usual bang bang. There aren’t many movies where the funniest line is the way a character says, “Oh.” And I loved the idea of a very high-end, very specialized safe house/hotel just for assassins. Of course the only currency accepted is gold coins. And of course there is a doctor on duty 24/7 to sew up wounds without any pesky questions.
Keanu Reeves plays the title character and we know from the beginning of the film that he is not having a good day. We see him very badly, maybe mortally wounded, lying out in the rain, watching a video of his wife on his phone. And then we go back a couple of days to see what got him there.
His wife (Bridget Moynahan) is dying. At the funeral, he has an cryptic and uneasy conversation with Marcus (Willem Dafoe), a former colleague. That night, alone in his beautiful but spare home, John accepts delivery of a package. It is an adorable puppy, a gift from his late wife, with a note telling him that “you still need something, someone to love.” She urges him, “now that I’ve found my peace, find yours.”
When he goes out to get food for the dog, he stops to fill up his vintage ’69 Mustang with gas. An arrogant, hot-headed young Russian thug (Alfie Allen) wants to buy the car, snarling that everything has its price. His handler/bodyguard apologizes courteously and they go their separate ways. But that night, when John is asleep, they break into his house, brutally attack him, kill his puppy, and steal the car.
But they have stolen from the wrong person. Before he left the business to live blissfully with his wife, John Wick was employed as a killer and he was very, very good at it. “He was the one you sent to kill the boogeyman,” Viggo, the crime kingpin (Michael Nyqvist) says grimly. He has reason to know, as he was John’s employer. Viggo once saw him kill three guys with a pencil. And Viggo has reason to be grim; the hothead who stole John’s car was Viggo’s own spoiled son.
John gets out his sledgehammer to break the concrete floor and get to the weapons and stash of gold coins he had hidden there. He suits up (bulletproof vest and impeccably tailored grey duds), and off he goes, dodging the attacks from Viggo’s goons and then from the open contract Viggo puts out on him for any hitman (or women) who is willing to take him on, mowing down everyone, and I mean everyone (well, everyone male) who gets in his way.
Reeves is well cast as the implacable, unstoppable John Wicks, and Nyqvist (“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” and the Swedish “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” series) is outstanding as the wily Viggo. There are some nice darkly comic moments (trust me about that “Oh,” and a later reprise), but this is all about the stunts, and as pure adrenaline action fodder, this movie delivers the goods.
Parents should know that this film includes extremely graphic and intense violence with many characters (and a dog) injured and killed, disturbing images including spurting blood, wounds, stabbing, assault weapons, and explosives, strong language, smoking, drinking, drugs, skimpy clothes
Family discussion: Does everything have a price? Why did Viggo decide to make a deal? What did he mean when he said “this life follows you?”
If you like this, try: “Shoot ‘Em Up” and “Point Break”