John Wick is one of the surprise hits of 2014 and even though Keanu Reeves might not be a great actor, this role was tailor made for his skill sets in fighting and stunt work. Add to that, the story, albeit thin, is good enough to carry the 100-minute running time. The Blu-ray released by Lionsgate has great video/audio transfers and OK selection of bonus material.
Genre(s): Action, Thriller
Lionsgate | R – 101 min. – $39.99 | February 3, 2015
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
It’s no secret that Keanu Reeves isn’t the most versatile actor around and yet once in a while there’s a project is tailor made for his talents, masking the deficiencies he may have (woodened line delivery, lack of emotion for starters) but he was great in The Matrix, though the script and plot helped a ton and now with John Wick, the film takes full advantage of his physicality and preparation work. The screenplay doesn’t ask a whole from him and in return we get a breezy kick-ass actioner.
The story centers around a seemingly normal man named John Wick (KEANU REEVES) whose wife of 4+ years has recently died of an unspecified disease and her return gift after her passing was a beagle puppy named Daisy, something for him to love and cope with his loss. One day, while gassing up his vintage 1969 Mustang, catches the eye of a punk named Iosef Tarasov (ALFIE ALLEN) who offers to buy it but John bluntly declines. The following night, John is awaken to noises during the night and is attacked, beaten and ultimately Daisy is killed as the intruders want the keys to the car.
Of course, it’s Iosef and his thugs behind the robbery and he takes it to a chop-shop run by Aureilo (JOHN LEGUIZAMO) needing the VIN and plates to be changed out. Aureilo refuses knowing exactly who the owner is and later is approached by John and tells him the name of the punk, revealing him to be the son of mob boss Viggo Tarasov (MICHAEL NYQVIST), whom John, in his former live, used to work for as an enforcer before retiring for the married life.
But now the old John Wick is back sledge hammering cement in the basement, retrieving weapons and gold coins (the currency to payoff illegal activities) and receives a call from Viggo in the hopes of making peace and saving his son to which, via silence, John declines. Knowing a war is upon him, he has his right-hand man, Avi (DEAN WINTERS), to send everyone he’s got to go after John but, as shown in the film’s first action sequence, they are no match for even a rusty Wick, quickly dispensed one by one, gunshot by gunshot. With that, Viggo steps it up a notch and puts a $2 million bounty on Wick including Wick’s old friend (and mentor?) Marcus (WILLEM DAFOE) who accepts.
Wick begins his search for revenge and Iosef, but first gets a hotel room, the Continental, at what is a safe house of sorts of the criminal element before tracking Iosef to a swanky nightclub where we get another shootout, more bodies piling up however ultimately Iosef (barely) escapes and for his part Wick gets a nasty gash to the side for his troubles. Thankfully this hotel comes with an in-house doctor to patch him up enough to continue his vengeance. Adding to his problems, one of those who took the bounty is Ms. Perkins (ADRIANNE PALICKI) and the pair duke it out in bloody fashion.
That’s the basics. More bodies and headshots, some cool action scenes and a chase scene permeates this film which, plot wise, is quite simple. It’s a man, in grief, and with apparently nothing to lose, tears through town while the number of foes the bad guy sends begins to dwindle with nothing, and nobody, to stop Wick in his quest for vengeance.
As I said in the opening, this role was tailor made for Keanu Reeves who never was a great actor but unlike some who are, he certainly is dedicated to his work and it really shows off with his physicality and, I assume mostly, performing his own stunts. It also helps the part doesn’t require a whole lot from him as there’s really not that much dialogue as he speaks through gunfire and blood.
The supporting roles aren’t anything spectacular yet still impressive and complimentary to Reeves with the big names having small parts: Ian McShane, Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo and Bridget Moynahan are more cameos each appearing for maybe 5-minutes each unfortunately and for his part, Leguizamo was great and I kind of wish he more to do than just relay information to Wick. Michael Nyqvist, though was, as in Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, a satisfactory villain in what was a thin and clichéd character to begin with.
I really enjoyed John Wick, one of the bigger surprise films of 2014. No, it’s nothing profound nor does it have depth with the story and instead sustains itself with creative fight scenes, glossy settings and beautiful, yet somewhat gritty, cinematography by Jonathan Sela (Law Abiding Citizen), and bone-crunching music from Tyler Bates (Guardians of the Galaxy, Watchmen). And under the direction of Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (uncredited), this is just an all around well made film that doesn’t ask much from its audience.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
This release comes with a glossy slip cover. Inside are the DVD Copy and a redemption code for the Digital Copy (UV and iTunes compatible).
Audio Commentary – Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch sit down for an informative but fun track offering details on how the film got made. It’s helpful when the commentators are good friends making for easy listening.
Don’t F*#% with John Wick (15:17; HD) looks at various things such as the training regimen, stunt work for Keanu Reeves in preparation for the role and provides behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew on working with Reeves.
Calling the Calvary (11:58; HD) covers the filmmakers and supporting cast, their roles and thoughts on the script.
Destiny of a Collective (6:19; HD) – This featurette looks at the partnership between Chad Stahelski and David Leitch and how they came together beginning with stunt/fight chorography to directing.
The Assassin’s Code (5:18; HD) examines the code of the world of the assassin and the rules that apply as well as the over-the-top style in it.
The Red Circle (6:26; HD) looks at the nightclub action sequence.
N.Y.C. Noir (6:00; HD) is about the style and locations chosen for the film.
Theatrical Trailer (2:32; HD)
Previews – The Divergent Series: Insurgent, The Expendables 3 Blu-ray, Revenge of the Green Dragons, Mordecai, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Lionsgate distributes John Wick onto Blu-ray presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. The film has a decidedly glossy yet still gritty vibe to it with colors moving more towards colder blues and such so it’s not a particularly pretty picture but one that accurately reflects the director’s intent. Detail levels are decent especially on the close-up shots and it appears free of artifacts and aliasing.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
The movie comes with the new Dolby TrueHD Atmos track but for those, like myself, whose receivers cannot decode Atmos, it will automatically relay to 7.1 channel Dolby TrueHD, which in itself is fantastic. This track makes the most use out of each and every action and fight scene while also giving us the nuances of the quieter moments and dialogue which comes through crisp and clear. The LFE channel gets some fair use but it’s not entirely strong and more subtle than anything.
OVERALL – 4.0/5
Overall, John Wick is one of the surprise hits of 2014 and even though Keanu Reeves might not be a great actor, this role was tailor made for his skill sets in fighting and stunt work. Add to that, the story, albeit thin, is good enough to carry the 100-minute running time. The Blu-ray released by Lionsgate has great video/audio transfers and OK selection of bonus material.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.