“It’s not what you did, son, it’s who you did it to,” says Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist). “That nobody?!,” yells his son, Iosef (Alfie Allen). “That nobody…is John Wick,” answers Viggo, trying to convey to his cocky and belligerent son that he has made the worst mistake of his life by stealing John Wick’s car and killing his puppy in the action crime thriller John Wick.
After losing the love of his life, retired hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) gets one last gift from his wife: a beagle puppy so he won’t be alone while he mourns her passing and to give him something to take care of. While filling up his 1969 Mustang, Wick is approached by Iosef who wants to buy his car. Wick quickly tells him it’s not for sale and leaves. Later that night Iosef, along with a few other Russian thugs, break into Wick’s home, kill his puppy, beat him unconscious, and steal his car.
What Iosef and his goons don’t realize is that they just attacked the most lethal and feared ex-hitman in New York City. Having lost everything he loves, John comes out of retirement and brings out his old arsenal of weapons. While it was Iosef acting without orders, Wick targets not only Iosef but his power father who’s the head of the Russian mob in New York City.
Action-packed with countless, over-the-top shoot-outs and thrilling car chases, John Wick is a compelling revenge thriller that’s this generation’s Death Wish. Reeves delivers a solid, brooding performance as ex-professional assassin Wick who’s lost his humanity with the loss of everything he ever cared about. Michael Nyqvist is perfectly cast as the Russian Mob boss who knows his son is a careless, arrogant idiot but is still determined to try to protect him from Wick.
The best actors in the film are, unfortunately, underutilized. Ian McShane shows up in a few scenes and is terrific as Winston, the New York underworld’s referee. Equally well-cast yet underused is Willem Dafoe as Marcus, Wick’s only friend from the old days. It’s a true shame that McShane is only given two scenes and Dafoe three and a half. It’s a true waste of excellent actors who could have given the film even more depth and menace.
The production is first-rate, set in a New York City where thugs lurk in dark corners, mobsters own the streets, and the night life is ominous and slick. The use of the Hotel Cosmopolitan for the assassins designated safe zone is superb for both humor and fast-paced action scenes.
Stylish and exciting, John Wick is an action, revenge thriller that will have the movie audience rooting for John right up until the credits roll.
* * * * *
John Wick is rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use.
– Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
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