John Wick

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

John Wick (Keanu Reeves), who has just lost his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) to an undisclosed illness, receives a gift from her posthumously in the form of a Beagle puppy named Daisy, along with a letter from her saying she arranged for him to have Daisy to help him cope with her demise. Initially indifferent to Daisy, he eventually connects to the puppy as they spend the day driving around in his vintage ’69 Mustang. At a gas station, he encounters a trio of Russian gang members, whose leader Iosef (Alfie Allen) insists on buying his car. John refuses to sell and greets Iosef’s snide remark in Russian with a retort in the same language before leaving. The three follow John to his home, break in at night, and attack John, who is knocked unconscious just after seeing Daisy mortally wounded.

Iosef takes the Mustang to a chop shop run by Aurelio (John Leguizamo), a business associate, to have the VIN changed. However, when Iosef tells Aurelio how he acquired the car, Aurelio punches Iosef in the face and throws him out of his shop. John subsequently visits Aurelio, who tells him Iosef is the son of Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) – the head of the Russian crime syndicate in New York – and loans him a Chevelle SS to replace the Mustang. Viggo, after being advised by Aurelio what Iosef had done, beats and berates Iosef for his actions. He then explains to Iosef who John Wick is: his former best assassin, nicknamed Baba Yaga (“the Boogeyman”), who earned a release from Viggo’s employment (allowing John to get married) by killing all of Viggo’s competitors in a single day, giving Viggo control of his syndicate.

Viggo, wanting to protect his son, attempts to talk John out of seeking retribution; John silently refuses. Viggo then sends a twelve-man hit squad to John’s house to kill him; John kills all of them within minutes and pays an associate to dispose of the bodies. Viggo puts a $2 million bounty on John and personally offers the contract to Marcus (Willem Dafoe), a veteran assassin and John’s mentor, who accepts. John subsequently seeks refuge at the Continental, a hotel that exclusively caters to assassins, with a rule that no business can be conducted on premises. When Viggo learns of this, he doubles the bounty for those willing to break the rules to kill John there. John learns from Winston (Ian McShane), the owner of the Continental, that Viggo has Iosef protected at his nightclub, the Red Circle.

John enters the Red Circle, where he kills Iosef’s friend Victor and most of the security staff. Before he can kill Iosef, Viggo’s henchman Kirill waylays John. John escapes back to the Continental to have his wounds treated. Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), an assassin and former acquaintance of John’s, attempts to sneak into John’s room at the Continental and kill him, but Marcus – who had been monitoring John’s room with a sniper rifle – awakens John by shooting the pillow next to his head. After a brutal hand-to-hand fight, John subdues Ms. Perkins and forces her to reveal the location of Viggo’s front. John leaves Ms. Perkins with Harry (Clarke Peters), a fellow assassin, to await her punishment for breaking the hotel rules. However, Ms. Perkins slips out of her restraints and kills Harry.

John travels to Little Russia, where he finds the church which serves as Viggo’s front, kills all the guards, and incinerates Viggo’s cache of money and blackmail material. When Viggo’s team arrives at the church, John ambushes them, but Kirill incapacitates John by striking him with a Chevrolet Tahoe. At a safe house, Viggo taunts John for thinking he could leave his old life behind. He leaves John to be tortured and killed by Kirill and another henchman, but Marcus kills the other henchman, allowing John to break free and kill Kirill. John intercepts Viggo’s car and forces him to reveal Iosef’s location and also pull the bounty, which Viggo reluctantly does. John travels to the safe house where Iosef is hiding and kills all of the guards before killing Iosef.

Ms. Perkins sees that John and Marcus have been in contact and tells Viggo, who has Marcus tortured and killed in his home over his betrayal. Viggo contacts John and informs him of Marcus’ death, hoping to lure John to Marcus’ home, where Ms. Perkins is waiting to ambush him. However, Ms. Perkins is called to a secret meeting with Winston, who revokes her membership to the Continental for breaking the rules and has her swiftly executed in a crossfire by four assassins. Winston calls John to inform him of a helicopter coming to the harbor to transport Viggo away.

John races to the harbor and executes Viggo’s remaining henchmen before engaging Viggo in a fistfight on the dock. Viggo pulls a knife on John and as they fight, John forces it into his already wounded abdomen, startling Viggo. John then breaks Viggo’s arm, takes Viggo’s knife, and stabs him on the side of the neck. John leaves Viggo to die. John, wounded but still able-bodied, stops at a waterfront animal clinic where he treats his wound. He then rescues a pitbull puppy from one of the cages and is last seen walking away on the boardwalk where he had his last date with Helen.

REVIEW:

I find it rather comical that on the weekend Hitman: Agent 47 is released, I opt to stay home and watch an assassin/hitman film that came out last year, John Wick. Time will tell on whether I made the right decision, but from what I’ve been hearing, it wouldn’t take much.

What is this about?

When a retired hit man is forced back into action by a sadistic young thug, he hunts down his adversaries with the skill and ruthlessness that made him an underworld legend.  A masterful tale of adrenaline-fueled revenge and redemption.

What did I like?

Whoa! Who would have thought Ted “Theodore” Logan would become such a hardened assassin? One advertisement for this flick said that it was “Keanu Reeves’ best performance since The Matrix.” I wish I could argue against that, but let’s face it, Reeves hasn’t exactly been hitting it out of the ballpark the last 15 or so years since we became accustomed to him as Neo. This is a role that allows him to kick ass, take names, show some emotional depth, and be the strong silent type. The kind of role he was made for!

Action. Once we get past the introduction of characters and the plot, the action starts and doesn’t let up! I was expecting this to be one of those films that is all talk and no bite, but it was just the opposite. Violent kills, beautiful choreography, exciting car chases, and even a good old-fashioned slugfest! Man, if you’re into action this will surely satisfy your craving.

Brotherhood. There is an old saying about there being honor amongst thieves. It would appear that there is a code, if you will, for assassins. One might even go so far as to say that it is a…creed (see what I did there?) For someone who is such a loner, as Wick appears to be, it was nice to see that he has friends in the profession that have his back. I wonder, though, how many of them would just as soon shoot him in said back as help him?

What didn’t I like?

Dog days. It is funny to me how people in this country get so worked up over dogs. Michael Vick lost years from his career because he was fighting dogs, yet murders, rapists, and serial women beaters are in the NFL with a slap on the wrist. Why do I bring this up? Well, in a way, the death of the dog is what sets Reeves off on this killing spree, coupled with the death of his wife, and he loses it, killing just about everything in sight on a quest for revenge. All this over a dog, a stupid, good for nothing dog! *SIGH* Now, had this been a cat, I could relate.

Alfie. Have you ever heard the name Alfie Allen? Well, he is the brother of British singer Lily Allen (her song “Alfie” is about him), but his claim to fame is as Theon Greyjoy on Game of Thrones. As sniveling and despicable as Greyjoy is, this character, Iosef Tarasov, is just as bad or worse. One must wonder if Allen is being typecast in these roles now, or if genuinely fell in love with this character. Either way, I feel this character could have hade more independent and not such a daddy’s boy.

Russians. I remember watching a review for this when it came out and someone mentioned the Russians and pondered what must they think when they see themselves as the villain in so many American movies. Back in the day and in period films such as the recent The Man from U.N.C.L.E. are one thing, but this is set in modern day. Last I checked, while things aren’t exactly the best between our two countries, they aren’t the enemy. Can we stop using Russians as villains, especially when they aren’t even convincingly Russian!

In conclusion, John Wick is one of the best action flicks I’ve seen in quite some time. Not only does it deliver a compelling story with some great action, but it is grounded in reality, something that today’s audiences seem to want, as opposed to the insane, anything can happen action that I prefer. There are very few complaints that I have about this film, which is rare, so I’m just going to end this by saying this is a must see before you die flick!

5 out of 5 stars

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