Ryan Easby

Review: John Wick (Five Year Anniversary)

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I’ve got no idea why it took me five years to properly sit down and watch this film. I’ve seen it once prior to this, but only in passing and I wasn’t paying too much attention. I now understand exactly why this is referred to as a modern action classic and some form of career renaissance for Keanu Reeves. It’s an absolutely spectacular feature film, a wonderfully choreographed action film, Die Hard for the modern masses.

John Wick’s plot is peculiar, and very much not the focus of the film (which may be why it seems a tad generic at points and uninspired). It’s about a retired assassin whose wife has recently passed away and has left him a puppy. That puppy then gets killed and John Wick comes out of retirement and goes on an absolute rampage, murdering anybody in his path in the hunt for the guy who killed his puppy. You’ve got to admire how the writers didn’t go for the completely generic motivation of “You killed my daughter” or “You killed my wife”.

As the henchmen of the film keep pointing out: “It’s just a puppy”. Plot-wise, it’s not exactly a deep film, but it is a hell of a fun time.

Of course, if you’re watching John Wick you probably haven’t come for a deep and thought-provoking plot or complex characters (although the characters are great, more on them later), have you? You’ve come for insane action and some of the best action beats since Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman fought atop a skyscraper.

And boy, does this film deliver. The nightclub scene, in particular, is absolutely hypnotic, with the fast, fluid and frenetic directing cementing Chad Stahelski as a master of the genre. John Wick doesn’t just look good during the action films either, it feels satisfying to watch. It’s hard to put into words, but every shot has impact, probably due to the fact that, unlike most action movies, it isn’t just guns spraying bullets everywhere with little to no consequence.

As for calling this film Keanu Reeves’ career renaissance… I’m a tad sceptical of it, if I’m honest.

It’s not that he’s bad in this or anything, it’s that there’s not much exactly to go off. This isn’t like the Matrix, which was balancing complex and groundbreaking action with complex narrative questions, but it’s not trying to be. He’s good in the role he’s given, but the role he’s given doesn’t do much other than shoot a gun. I’ll hold my full opinions on the character back until I’ve seen John Wick: Chapter 2, but for now I remain unimpressed.

The villain is just another mob boss, he’s nothing special, but Michael Nyqvuist is pretty alright. Willem Dafoe also stars, but he’s rather underused. This isn’t the kind of nuanced Dafoe performance he usually gives, sadly.

So the question, five years later and despite the issues I have with it, should John Wick still be held in as high a regard as it is often held in? Should John Wick be seen as one of the action genre greats? The answer is unequivocally yes to both questions. It’s an absolutely stunning film with some jaw-dropping sequences. Any action fan will adore this.