The moral of John Wick is never ever kill someone’s dog, probably a good thing to bear in mind anyway. In the case of this film, the perpetrators of the vile act choose the absolutely worst person possible to piss off. Keanu Reeves plays the title character and he is a retired hit man. And not just any hit man, but the best in the biz. But he left that life behind a while back and got married, and as the film begins, his beloved wife has just died from an unnamed illness. And John is taking it really hard, when a crate shows up at his house with an adorable little dog and a note from the dead wife saying that she wanted him to have a companion to help him get through his grief. So it is not just a dog, but a link to the love of his life.
The reason the pup gets iced is that a dumb Russian rich kid (Alfie Allen) wants John’s ’69 Mustang and since John rebuffed his offer to buy it, he’s come to steal it. Needless to say, John comes out of retirement and the rest of the film is his retribution. That the kid is the son of a powerful Russian mobster (Michael Nyqvist) who John used to work for complicates things a bit. While he’s going after the kid, the father has put out a high dollar contract on him. So everyone is trying to kill everyone else. Only John really is a whole lot better at it than they are. Willem Dafoe plays another hit man who’s friends with John. You meet him at the wife’s funeral. But when he gets a call about the contract on John, you’re not so sure where his loyalties lie. A good portion of the film takes place in a mysterious New York hotel that seems to be a club for hit men (and women) with some interesting services and a strict code of conduct. It felt like there was a lot more to know about this club/hotel, and maybe there will be a spin-off that opens that story a bit.
John Wick is a classic action flick. It is gorgeously shot, and you don’t have time to breathe as it moves with breakneck speed from blood soaked scene to scene, though it does have a few witty moments to punctuate the relentless gun play. Keanu nails the wounded man/action star and could give Liam Neeson a run for his money. This is not by any means a chick flick, unless you’re into the genre, but it is well done and a welcome change from the Super Hero CGI movies and sappy love stories out there. I recommend it for those into stylish violence.