John Wick (2014)
Don't Set Him Off!
Many may remember the concatenated review when this movie first hit theaters. If you haven't seen it, I'd still recommend you go and read that one instead of this one since this one will talk a bit about plot. Not that it matters too much, but really it's just so much more enjoyable if you go into the movie not knowing anything about it - why? Because it's a fresh little surprise. Brush up on your Russian, it's time to break some floors.
John Wick is living his life happily with his wife, until one day she falls ill. It's unfortunately terminal, and it isn't long until the poor man is attending his wife's funeral. He's heartbroken, despite some old friends showing up to offer their support. Later, after all the guests have left his house, he receives a present from his dead wife, one she planned on him needing. Inside the crate is a puppy, and a cute one at that, and a letter from his wife telling him that he needs to have something to live for and keep him happy, thus the dog. His next morning is in part getting used to his new little companion, including going for a ride to pick up all sorts of toys and food and the likes. While getting some gas, a couple of Russian speaking punks pull up, asking about his awesome car. They aren't very fond of him telling them it's not for sale however, but take off anyways.
After spending the rest of his day doing some stunt driving to work out some of his emotions, it's time to settle in for the night. In the night though, his sleep is interrupted by a the puppy wanting to go out. When he goes to deal with the situation, he's met with a pipe to the back of his head. Turns out the punks from before are there for his car, but feeling that's not enough take it upon themselves to kill his dog before knocking him out and leaving. The punks show up to a chop-shop with the car, thinking they'll get some work done on it, only to be clocked by the shop owner. The punk elaborates on how he's the bosses son, and he shouldn't have done that - but the owner knows something the little punk doesn't, and is all ready for the boss to call and let him know. That stolen car belongs to John Wick - and they killed his dog on top of that. Boss isn't very happy.
John Wick, as it turns out, is one of the only hitmen to ever "get out of the game." After doing the impossible - which in turn set up the boss to be the boss he currently is - he was granted leave of the business to live out his time with the love of his wife. They used to call him the boogeyman - because he's who you called to kill the boogeyman. He calls up John, and from the conversation he already knows things are bad, sending out a team to try and nip it in the bud before things get too crazy. They should really have never made John angry.
The plot is incredibly simple, revenge. Some might think this too simple, but the thing here is that it works. More-so than your run of the mill fun action movie as a matter of fact, but in no part really because of the plot itself. The plot is still just a vehicle, this story centered on a man with a set of skills out to right an injustice against himself. You might meet some of his acquaintances in one form or the other - but much like the main evil-doer of the plot, everyone else seems to know more about this main character than we do. His story unravels from others, and his actions only back up the story being woven from their tellers. You can gleam some form of thoughts about various things - coping, being respectful, living with consequences - but largely that there are just some people who you shouldn't mess with, and you will never know who those people are until you've already signed your death warrant.
As I mentioned, part of this works not because of the story, but instead because of the acting. Outside of The Matrix and the Bill and Ted movies, Keanu Reeves wasn't the kind of person who really ever struck me as an exceptional actor and the previous two stand-outs really pegged him more as the clueless hero type with some action shots than someone with a high-yield range of emotional depth. When it comes to this one though, he does a great job portraying some emotions outside of clueless - namely sorrow and determined rage, with a side of collected calm one would expect from a man in his character's profession. The other cast all plays their roles straight as well - you hate who you are supposed to hate, you slightly feel for the Boss as he realizes just how deep the crap his son has gotten into, and you like the professional friendship of some of the side characters. It all helps make the movie play out with a much harder emotional chord than a standard action flick.
Of course, that doesn't mean those action elements are worse. On the contrary, those gunfights are usually incredibly intense, often in a closed environment and playing out absolutely brutal. Wick is an incredibly efficient man, making his shots count, and everything he does ends up playing out like some form of more believable and realistic gun-fu, mixing hands and firearms and a devastating blend. It's like an artist painting their master project in violence. Really, the only thing that could have made me enjoy them more would have been to include less cuts (not that there are that many) and more seamless takes such as Hard Boiled or Kingsman's church scene.
If you like action movies, you have no reason to not see this. It's a fine piece of action, and it's got some good acting to back up the emotional aspects of it's driving force. Even those who aren't specifically action connoisseurs have a decent chance of picking this up and enjoying it. At this point, I haven't actually heard all that many dissenters amongst the crowd of those who've seen it, although I can see those who aren't a fan of violence not particularly being a huge fan of it (there are quite a few gunfights in this one). Still, rent or buy for sure.