With an incredibly strong sense of self, John Wick introduces an unknown badass, played by the often underestimated Keanu Reeves, and successfully convinces the audience that the movie’s entire universe is legitimately frightened of him.
When audiences meet Wick, he’s a sad dude. His wife (Bridget Moynihan, only seen in flashbacks) has died, leaving him a sweet puppy and his beloved muscle car. But some Russian goons (led by “Game of Thrones”’ Theon Greyjoy, aka Alfie Allen) make the mistake of reawakening this retired killer’s murderous professionalism. Head Russian goon (Michael Nyqvist, the Swedish language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Mikael Blomkvist) is so terrified he puts a bounty on his former employee’s head; he even encourages John Wick’s old pal, Marcus (Willem Dafoe), to tackle the task.
John Wick has a lot of strengths, the biggest of which may be its cast. Reeves, Nyqvist and Dafoe are joined by Lance Reddick, Adrianne Palicki, Dean “Mayhem” Winters, John Leguizamo and Ian McShane as the proprietor of a hitman hotel that doubles as a sanctuary. Do not bring business into The Continental; it will end badly. First-time directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch have lots of stunt experience, and both previously worked with Reeves on The Matrix series. Their film is stylishly confident in its brutality and stands as one of 2014’s biggest action surprises. It is also another film that seems inspired by 2008 videogame Max Payne, made into a lackluster movie in 2008. This intriguing action game seems to have left a legacy on the current crop of grim action movies. Maybe the greatest compliment for John Wick is that it is the rare videogame-influenced movie that’s just as much fun to watch as to play.