By Lena Parodi
“It’s not what you did, son. It’s who you did it to.” Young Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen), the only son of the New York’s Russian crime boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), starts what ends up being a slew of terrible life choices when he decides to steal a car he liked from a guy he saw at a gas station, killing his dog in the process. That “nobody”, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), turns out to be an old collaborator of Iosef’s father. He had been allowed to retire from the business in exchange for one last job: laying the foundation for the criminal empire Viggo now rules over. Amongst the higher echelons of the criminal underground, Wick is affectionately known as The Boogey Man, or, as Daddy Tarasov defines him: “He’s the one you send to kill the fucking Boogey Man.”
To say the least, Wick does not take kindly to a young Russian upstart breaking into his house, beating him up, stealing his prized Mustang, and killing the last gift he had received from his now-dead wife. Things snowball from there, as Viggo finds out what his oblivious screw-up of a son did, and subsequently tries to throw everything he can at Wick to keep him from unleashing hell upon him. John Wick is everything you ask for when you are looking for a course of mindless entertainment with a side of kick-ass. Among flying bullets and feats of martial prowess, there lies a rocking musical score that, while sometimes overshadowing the dialogue, keeps the energy up and the blood pumping. While Reeves’ acting as Wick doesn’t really offer any major surprises and the face of ‘mournful bad guy’ is a mask we’ve already seen him wear, the film itself holds a cache of both known and less-known talent, among which pillars such as Willem Dafoe, and that makes it very easy to underestimate.
The story is not new or original by any means: anti-hero that has escaped the darkness thanks to a woman jumps back in head first to administer his personal brand of fiery justice. However, while the premise may not be fresh, writer Derek Kolstad and first-time director duo David Leitch and Chad Stahelski show their skill by making such a “done” storyline so engaging and fun to watch. A couple of mysteries and minor twists and a not completely linear timeline also keep you on your toes. Added to this is an ample use of masterfully placed doses of dry humor alongside brilliant action sequences, which manages to never leave a dull moment in the film. This helps overlook the few instances where the script tries too hard to be overly emotional and instead turns stilted, especially in a few of the beginning scenes where Wick is mourning his Wife’s passing. Overall, this screening was an extremely enjoyable surprise, not only for the quality of the film, but also for the added presence in the theater of the entire cast, the directors, the writer, and the producer.
The Motion Picture Club at NYU gives John Wick an 8/10