Despite all its frivolity, John Wick is an intelligent movie, aware of the fact that some things needn’t be shown to be understood.
John Wick is a great action-without-plot movie which delivers all it promises. Bad guy kills dog. A different bad guy kills bad guy no. 1 and many other bad guys, and probably a few innocent bystanders and extras. But who cares.
Where John Wick thrives is its successful avoidance of action-movie clichés. It doesn’t even try to recreate the one-liner culture. Let’s face it, after Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and the king of all one-liner movies – The Last Boy Scout – there is no great one-liner to be found. Additionally, there is no Florence Nightingale in the movie (think Shooter with Mark Wahlberg) who patches John up and ends up healing so much more than the wounds he sustained on one of his rampages. There are two women in this movie. One of them is dead, and the other one gets dead.
According to the grading system developed within my family, a good action-without-plot movie is measured against the number of unreasonable killings and the number of women in the movie. The higher the number of unreasonable killings and the lower the number of women – the better (let’s not get into the debate about the role of women in modern cinematography, yes it often sucks, but this is neither the time nor the post for that). Said grading puts John Wick waaaaay up there. Not only that, having seen John Wick, I’ve decided to add two new variables to the grading system – the number of bullets per victim and whether it features the awesome Ian McShane.
John kills all these people (most of whom are Russian) because an asshole killed his dog. This movie doesn’t care for people who do not care about dogs. This movie says:
Fuck you, people who don’t like dogs. I don’t want you to watch or like me.
Bear in mind, the acting in John Wick is limited, as it should be in this type of movie. However, there are a few slips of talent. At one moment Michael Nyqvist suddenly gets larger than life. By skill alone he exudes a force to be reckoned with – for a brief moment he’s Ahnold, he’s Sly. Willem Dafoe also escapes the no-acting confines and his rough, lined face exudes unparalleled vulnerability. Even Keanu steps outside Keanuness to shock the viewer with convincing anger and determination, before he slips back to being Keanu. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
What I enjoyed the most in John Wick was a subculture of assassins which is never explained or even talked about. It gives a subtle noir touch to the movie. They even have their own currency, something which, again, isn’t explained, because the screenwriter doesn’t think the audience is consisted of idiots unwilling and/or unable to suspend their disbelief.
I loved the way these criminals – for all the characters are criminals – showed a limited sense of self-worth and a whole lot of sense of their criminality and the way it reflects on the reality of their lives (and death). Don’t get me wrong. This is not something the movie bothers you with, because despite all its frivolity, John Wick is an intelligent movie, aware of the fact that some things can and should be left unsaid, and if the viewer does not get it – tough.
Nothing in this movie seems accidental to me. It is very well thought out and executed.
On a personal note, my boyfriend and Renji (our dog) won this: