It’s not often that you see stunt coordinators directing films – especially not ones that reach a wide release – but John Wick has two. Chad Stahelski was Keanu Reeves’ stunt double in The Matrix trilogy, and teams up with fellow stuntman David Leitch for this film. Starring Keanu Reeves in the titular role, the story revolves around a legendary ex-hitman whose wife has just died. He starts to find solace in a dog that his now-deceased wife gave him, until some Russian gangsters kill it and steal his car. After seemingly losing everyone, he decides seek revenge and spends the rest of the movie killing everyone.
If the story sounds ridiculous or stupid, you can take solace in the fact that the film is self-aware of it’s own insanity. John Wick embraces it’s b-movie heritage and doesn’t pretend to be anything more. In fact, the film amps up the craziness and even makes jokes at its own expense. The Russian villains are cartoonish, but the filmmakers recognize this and create overly-dramatic, metaphor-laced lines translated with action subtitles. So essentially this movie is what The Equalizer would have been if The Equalizer were good.
Thankfully, the actors are in tune to what the movie is going for. Keanu Reeves is absolutely fantastic, delivering his lines with the sort of monotonous intensity that made him an action star in the first place. Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist is the head of the Russian crime gang, and plays his role with such intensity that it borders on parody. That said, the movie never gets in your face about making fun of itself. The characters take themselves deadly seriously. Willem Dafoe essentially plays a Deus Ex Machina, saving John Wick whenever he needs it most. None of the characters have a lot of dimension, but they don’t really need any.
The fight scenes are fabulous. They are meticulously choreographed and the camera stays in a place where all of the action in the scene is easily visible. The fighting is non-stop and high-intensity. The rest of the film is barely an excuse of a plot to cater to the fight scenes, so it’s good that they are solid. The film feels kind of like watching a video game, but it feels like watching a guy who knows what he’s doing play a video game. Even though it appears as though bad guys appear out of thin air, there’s some genuine energy put into making sure the villains aren’t one-punch kills.
The film doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it creates its own little reality where all of these eventsare perfectly acceptable. It doesn’t spend too much time trying to explain things or have things seem realistic, but this isn’t the type of movie that you think too much about. I’m not sure how well it would hold up on a second viewing, but I definitely had a lot of fun watching this one. It’s a fun action film. Nothing more. Nothing less. 7/10.