Certificate 15, 101 minutes
Directors: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen
John Wick opens with a rather battered vehicle slowly coming to a stop as it crunches into some sort of industrial building. A door opens, and a badly injured man staggers out and collapses onto the ground, where he then watches a video on his phone. The film then goes back an unspecified amount of time, although it can be inferred by the events that this was at most a few days.
The man from the first scene, the titular John Wick (Keanu Reeves), wakes up in a nice, if empty, house, probably somewhere in New Jersey. It seems that he's recently lost someone, and this is confirmed as he attends his wife's funeral that same day. After the funeral, he returns to his empty house but, as his wife had an, unnamed, illness, and therefore knew she was going to die, she therefore left a final gift for him.
Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wick_%28film%29#/media/File:John_Wick_TeaserPoster.jpgThis gift is a beagle puppy which is delivered to John shortly after the funeral. There is a message for John from his wife, saying that she wants him to love something after she is gone - and that his car doesn't count. The day after the puppy is delivered, John takes her out in his car, a classic Ford Mustang. On the way home, another car pulls into the garage where John is filling up with petrol. One of the three men in the car, Iosef (Alfie Allen, Plastic), says he wants to buy the Mustang. John refuses, and Iosef makes a comment in Russian, which John also replies to in Russian.
That night, the three break into his house, beat Wick up with metal pipes and steal his car. And kill his dog. What John didn't know was that the three Russians are mafiya, with Iosef being the son of Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), a powerful Russian mobster in New York. What Iosef doesn't know is that John used to work for Viggo himself, until he was allowed to retire to get married after completing an "impossible" task, and that he worked as a very scary hitman. John is now, rather understandably, extremely annoyed, having just lost his wife and her parting gift for him. Viggo tries to make peace with Wick, but fails, and sends a team of men after him at home. John had already recovered his weapons, and a lot of gold coins, from under the concrete in his half, and he makes very short work of them.
Wick then heads to New York, to find, and kill, Iosef. Viggo takes a contract out on Wick, an open one for $2 million, although Viggo also personally asks another hitman, Marcus (Willem Dafoe, A Most Wanted Man, John Carter), to go after him. John has returned to a rather strange underworld, where the gold coins he dug up earlier are a standard form of payment for many jobs.
This is a very violent, brutal, and often bloody, film. Wick makes short work of the hordes of minions sent against him; only one shows any ability at all to stand up to him. The rest simply do what redshirts do - die. Iosef is at first not bothered or impressed by the fact that the legendary John Wick is coming after him, despite what everyone else - including Iosef's own father - tells him. This attitude rapidly changes as Wick goes through the people protecting him like a knife through butter.
Despite the violence, there are also odd patches of humour in it. They aren't designed to really lighten the feel, but they do make a nice counterpoint. Wick goes through his enemies without showing much in the way of emotion - they are targets to be eliminated, and he does that quickly and efficiently. This is definitely an action-driven film, not a character driven one. Other than Wick and Viggo, everyone else really doesn't have much to say. There are a lot of recognisable actors in small parts, but those parts don't really require much in the way of development of their characters. Many have no more than a few lines, which is a pity in some ways, as finding out some of these people's backstories would have been interesting. This film is not about the backstory though, but about the action. The only element of backstory is John's loss of his wife and his former job, which are what is needed to set up his task for revenge.
Keanu Reeves is not really known for his roles as an action here - or, rather, in this case an anti-hero. He may have played it to a certain extent in a number of films, notably the Matrix trilogy, but a pure action film like this is a bit of a change for him. Fortunately, he is quite convincing in the role. Despite how annoyed Wick is, he rarely makes much of an expression of emotion; he just gets on with his job - killing. Reeves does a good portrayal of this apparently emotionless killer.
One thing that doesn't make any sense is that neither John Wick nor Iosef recognised each other. Only a few years previously, Wick was working for Iosef's father, so how come they apparently never met during the time, presumably years, that John was doing his former job. You'd think that they would have come into contact at some point. Another is how easily Iosef and friends were able to disable John at the beginning, given how dangerous he is later shown. Admittedly they did have an element of surprise. John Wick is a pure action film, and it has plenty of action, as John takes revenge on those who took his car and killed his dog, as well as anyone else who gets in the way.