There are things that can be said about action films – or really with any film for that matter – When they are executed well, it can make for an entertaining film. Director Chad Stahelski has created a surprisingly engaging film. Derek Kolstad’s script blends story and action seamlessly so the viewer is drawn into the immersive world that is created for these characters to exist. And that world is the world of hit men. I suppose this would be similar to the world in which the mafia existed in the early part of the twentieth century.
The story follows a former hit man, John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves, who attempts to recover from the loss of his wife. After a brief encounter with some bad men, they return to his home, steal his car and kill his dog (a final gift from his deceased wife). Unbeknown to the attackers, they are dealing with a highly trained, determined individual (because as one character puts it, “He is the man you send to kill the boogieman”). Wick then goes on a manhunt to track them down and kill them because the dog represented the last bit of humanity and healing John had from his late wife. It was a symbol that he could move on, and when they killed the dog, they stole that from him.
The film also stars Michael Nyqvist and Alfie Allen as the antagonists who give John impossible opposition, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Adrianne Palicki, and Bridget Moynahan. Every performance captures the individuality of each character and adds so much to the dark world the story is set. And before going further, I feel Reeves’ performance as John Wick is one of his best. It seemed like he had a string of films where he appeared to play the same character, as he did not vary his physicality or have much change in his vocal inflection. He carried that some through this performance, but it fit this role well.
I liked the setting and tone of the film and the fight scenes, both gun and the hand-to-hand fighting, were very well choreographed and executed. The well-placed action scenes with some humor thrown in made for an enjoyable film. It was one of Reeves’ best and very commendable for first time director Stahelski. It flowed along at a decent pace and at 101 minutes was just enough for the story to develop without being slowed down or seem rushed. I can’t imagine a longer run time for the fear that it would begin to be convoluted with unnecessary sequences and any shorter, the story would not have developed as smoothly as it did. Something I enjoy in film is the use of time. Here, the film begins towards the end and then goes back a little and traces the events in which led up to that moment, then the action of the story moves forward.
Overall I really enjoyed the film and was thoroughly entertained the whole way through. Reeves has done very well with his performance in this film as the title character. The action scenes are excellent; and the sound editing and mixing are great and fit like a glove with the tone of the film.