Last Level Press

Film Review: John Wick

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

We’ve all experienced loss. Some are able to grieve and move on. Others are unable to do so. John Wick not only lost the love of his life to Vague Terminal Disease, but also a final parting gift from his wife, a puppy named Daisy, because the thuggish son of a powerful Russian Mafioso wanted Wick’s 1969 Mustang and Wick had the audacity to say no and then reply in Russian. Now, John Wick is on the warpath for vengeance as he confronts his violent, blood-soaked past in the criminal underground, and becomes the Boogeyman once again.


John Wick is visually stunning, though not in the usual flashy special effects way you would expect from the film reviews this site does. It’s stunning in its camera work, its scene set-up, and its choreography. You’ll have transition scenes of New York being viewed from above hundreds of feet in the air that show the vast scope of the city, flashy nightclubs where people are dancing and drinking and dying, and just these impressively long action sequences that aren’t just a couple beats of action because it’s required, but feel flowing and natural as the action shifts from one level to another. The tones of color in this film are to be applauded as well; you’ve got your usual grayscale and somber tones for the funeral of Wick’s wife, and their house is quite monotone with blacks, whites and greys, but suddenly the film explodes with bright and vivid color when John finds himself back in the old routine he once had. A nice touch is the use of the more mellow and neutral colors for the lobby of the hotel that serves as a hub and resting place for hit men, assassins, and other such criminal elements where they should expect no harm lest they invoke the wrath of management.

The soundtrack, as to be expected, is what you would expect from an action film. There isn’t exactly a standout track for me, but the one moment that does stand out is when John Wick is in a church in Little Russia and “Ode to Joy” is being played on an organ. It’s somewhat strange that that sticks out in my mind, as opposed to the track being played when he’s mowing down multiple goons in a night club, but what happens after it stops playing seems oddly fitting. Again, it’s standard fare, and you’ll probably not even acknowledge that much because the action is the bigger focus.

“Forgive me Father, for I couldn’t hear you over the sound of my rifle.”

When my friend first explained the premise of the film to me, I was hoping that this would feel like a subtle spoof or parody of other hit man or revenge films. I mean, come on! A film about a retired hit man coming back because some punk-ass son of a mob boss killed his dog and beat him up in his house? Well when you see that puppy’s eyes for the first time, and you hear that dog yelp in pain for the last time, you know damn well that heads are gonna roll. The story is told in such a way that what is presented is always enough: John Wick is a man you don’t mess with. John Wick is well-known in the criminal underground and has friends who talk to him like he’s been on vacation instead of living the quiet married life. There are people who fear him and question if he’s back. Not even with John Wick, but the whole sort of system that is in place is told just enough for you to realize, “Oh, goods and services are paid for with these gold coins,” and you assume this is the case because regular money can be tracked. There’s an understanding among people, even the ones that don’t have a given name in the film, that’s not so much what you would call “honor among thieves” but rather “we’re all going to die eventually, so let’s have one place we can relax in peace.” And, without giving anything away, the ending is quite rewarding.

For most of us, at least.

Keanu Reeves plays the eponymous John Wick, and sweet mercy is he amazing in this. Yes, he’s still kind of emotionless, and his one display of genuine rage as a character is kind of laughable, but he’s also incredibly ruthless, dark, and downright intimidating, with a beaten-up face and a cold stare that pierces with daggers. It’s a cold composure, and the near nonchalant attitude towards his victims that makes his performance work so fantastically. The rest of the supporting cast is simply fantastic: John Leguizamo, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Dean Winters, Willem Dafoe, and Adrianne Palicki, just to name a few, are all amazing in this film. There’s really nobody in this film who feels like they delivered a subpar performance. Without a doubt, this is certainly one of the better films I’ve seen this year.

This whole film, with a premise that sounds ridiculous and a setting that is so fun, is an absolute riot. If you enjoy action films like The Raid or Dredd, you’re going to love John Wick. If you’re not a big fan of action films, there is plenty of genuinely funny moments that will leave you laughing that will hopefully give you your exception. If you’re a fan of Keanu Reeves, you won’t be disappointed by this film at all... unlike that weird anomaly that was 47 Ronin. But, like John Wick himself, I now find myself back once again!

Editor’s Note: Excellent review, Atty!  I really feel like you understand Mr. Wick

and his return from hiatus, given your own little vacation of late.  

See you in another six months!

Rating: 7.8

Visuals: 8
Audio: 5
Narrative: 9

Acting: 8
Atmosphere & Experience: 9

Final Verdict:


  Director: Chad Stahelski

  Producer: Basil Iwanyk

                   David Leitch

                   Eva Longoria

  Release Date (U.S.): Oct. 24, 2014

  Release Date (E.U.): Jan. 02, 2015

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