AEOS Review: John Wick (2014)

I made a spontaneous trip to the theater to see John Wick (2014) last night, knowing very little going in, and only half-excited after viewing the trailer. Tom from Digital Shortbread probably offers a more knowledgeable review on the film than I can, but based off my somewhat limited viewing of action flicks and Keanu Reeves movies, here is my very subjective review on the film.

I’m not sure if I missed all the ads, or John Wick just sneaked up on me. I don’t recall seeing previews for the film before I saw any other movies in theater, so I imagine there wasn’t as much push for John Wick as previous other actions movies to have come out this year.

For those of you who don’t know what John Wick is about, the story can be summed up simply as a revenge action flick. John (Keanu Reeves) has lost everything important to him. The movie opens with us watching his wife’s life flash before his eyes, leading to her eventual death when the doctor pulled the plug. It’s not entirely explained how or why she died, but early on we get a glimpse of John’s vulnerable side as he’s deals with his wife’s passing. After her funeral, John arrives home and receives a dog: a final gift from his wife, with a letter, offering another life to help him cope with his grief.

What appears to be the next day, John is filling up his ’69 Mustang with gas at a station when Iosef (Alfie Allen) and a couple of his friends approach him, offering to buy his car. John refuses, and of course, that’s not the end of it. Later that evening, Iosef and his buddies break into John’s home, beat him up, murder his dog, and steal his car.

And then we’re on to act two of the film, which makes up the majority of the film’s 96-minute run-time.

I won’t mention any spoilers beyond that, because it’s for viewers to enjoy who haven’t seen the film yet. What I will say is that the film takes off with adrenaline, yet as viewers, we don’t feel out of breath. It’s not an original idea for a man to seek vengeance for that kind of act, or for us to see a new hero arise that was living “on the other side” for the past five years. But what we get out of John Wick is a hyper-violent revenge story that introduces the action prowess of Keanu Reeves to a new generation. Reeves is no stranger to the action genre, but John Wick might be his most successful action film since The Matrix (2000), if I dare cross a line in saying so. This isn’t the first time Reeves’s acrobatic skills have been on display, but it’s what he does with a gun that makes everyone keenly aware that his character is not to be dealt with. It is not simply a killing spree when John Wick enters the room. He knows how to make a gun dance, and the scenes where he is in action, killing all those who get in his way, is not just a killing: it’s an art.

Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), Iosef’s father, describes John Wick as “the man who takes care of the boogeyman.” It’s a funny title to hold, but Reeves is adept at playing a believably violent, revengeful man on the hunt. John Wick is certainly Reeves’s movie through and through. The choreographed fight scenes reminded of Jason Bourne in the Bourne series. The film is slickly edited thanks to Elísabet Ronalds’s handy work, who was able to make the action scenes even more interesting to watch on screen. It also seems possible to suggest that “John Wick” could become a action franchise name included with the likes of Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne if producers decide to turn it into a franchise.

My greatest fear in going in to see John Wick was that I’d see a stylistically-engaging film that was low on substance. The style was definitely present, but the movie did fail to offer a very memorable storyline. Despite that, I still really liked John Wick. Keanu Reeves carried the movie, and there were decent, though somewhat unmemorable performances by Willem Dafoe and Michael Nyqvist. I wish they would have given these guys more to do as they’re both talented actors, but the screenplay lacked the necessary pull to make these characters come alive on screen, even with the actors’s best efforts.

My desire is that producers bank off the critical success of John Wick and turn him into a franchise and build on his story, past the revenge aspect. Lurking behind the scenes is a compelling story that would probably clue us in on Wick’s past, before he was married, and about the world that involves a mysterious hotel with its own private club that deals only in gold coins and proffers a very generous compensation for its limited cliental.

While I really enjoyed John Wick, it did have its issues. Lack of originality is one of them, although despite its generic storyline, it seemed to successfully play the “typical action movie” stereotype and still be interesting. Tyler Bates composed the soundtrack, which while at times, felt like a hardcore gangster soundtrack, managed to work . . . although it was unsteady in parts, making you question exactly what type of movie John Wick really was.

While John Wick is far from perfect, I had such a great time with it from beginning to end, that I am boldly giving it

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1/2 ON SCREEN.

 

(Sorry, Tom :-/)

*Note – I never totally figured out how to make “half an eye,” so I will be updating scores for previous movies I have reviewed to either slightly higher or lower, based off what I originally wanted to score them.

Now it’s your turn. What did you guys think of John Wick? Am I crazy for liking it as much as I did? Please share your thoughts below, because as always, I would love to know your thoughts.

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21 thoughts on “AEOS Review: John Wick (2014)

  1. Fantastic review Kristen, and I think this part is where I agree the most:

    “there were decent, though somewhat unmemorable performances by Willem Dafoe and Michael Nyqvist. I wish they would have given these guys more to do as they’re both talented actors, but the screenplay lacked the necessary pull to make these characters come alive on screen, even with the actors’s best efforts.”

    I definitely thought these people were underutilized and that contributed to a pretty weak story. I’m glad to see you have taken kindly to it. Maybe I should watch it again when it’s on DVD. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Tom! Aww, thanks for your kind words. Truly, I can understand EXACTLY why you didn’t care for it. It makes a lot of sense, especially since you’re a more well-rounded viewers when it comes to action movies. This movie was far from perfect, and it was obvious some things were lacking (like a storyline, something a bit more original, writing for other characters, etc). Despite its issues, for some reason, the movie just really worked for me. But I totally appreciated your review and thoughts on the film, and I’m happy to agree to disagree! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Really, really looking forward to seeing this one. Heard nothing but good things about it! Though, did hear about studio wanting to make cuts in the final version. Hope that didn’t happen! Everyone’s calling this Keanu’s renaissance. I never did have much of a problem with him though 😉

    So, I pretty much skipped reading your review – don’t want to be spoiled! But still wanted to share my excitement at wanting to see this one 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, it is TOTALLY Keanu’s renaissance, Jaina! Wise move. I didn’t include any spoilers (I don’t think), but I imagine you’ll enjoy the film more if you wait to read any reviews until after you see it. I loved the film, and I’m excited to hear what you think of it!

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  3. Tommy boy and I do not see eye to eye on this one. I think John Wick is one of the best straight action movies to come around in years. I even found some of the writing original. Such as the underground assassination club and laws. That was a cool extra touch to a basic revenge plot. This is popcorn action at its best!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, glad to hear you enjoyed this one too! I loved this! You do have a point that there is some originality there. I loved the whole idea of dealing with gold coins and the “compensation” offered for trouble at the hotel. The humor was funny and the movie was entertaining. Glad you enjoyed this too! 🙂

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  4. I’ve always liked Keanu and I think he’s got more range than ppl give him credit for! I plan on seeing this tomorrow. Not every movie has to aim for award greatness, I mean, this one sounds entertaining and doesn’t take itself seriously so yeah, I probably will enjoy it as much as you, Kris!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ya know, I have to agree. He really has more range than I realized too, and you really get to see some of it in John Wick. Agreed – it is one of my favorite movies I have seen so far this year! Looking forward to hearing what you think of it, Ruth!

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  5. I’d never heard of this until I started to see reviews popping a few days ago; where did it come from?! I do like Keanu, I’ve always had a soft spot for him since I saw Speed (I think I was about 13) so I’ll be sure to check this out when it makes its way onto DVD.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey there, Alex! Always nice to see you on the blogosphere. Haha, well, thanks for the kind words! I hope you enjoy it. It’s nowhere near a perfect film, but it’s a great popcorn thriller that kept me entertained the entire run-time. I hope you enjoy it!

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