Summary: Ex-hitman Keanu Reeves seeks his own vengeance and pays the price.
Don’t worry, I made sure at least some quarantine time was put to good use to catch up on some things. The other half was binge-watching Face Off while scrubbing down because special effects make-up will never not be fascinating to me. (All episodes are available on SyFy. Go RJ!)
I’m very late to this party. My rating isn’t on the same playing field as the Planet of the Apes trilogy, which technically, narratively, metaphorically, emotionally, is in a league of its own and easily my favorite series of the 2010s. Rather, my praise for John Wick is solely on Keanu Reeve’s very successful kick to the balls of every action movie claiming to be an action movie. Before watching, I’d heard that John Wick is one of the best, pure action series to come along in a while, and yup, totally on board for that. Right from the start, I could tell that pretty much all my complaints about big action movies- you know, the shaky cam, fast editing, blurry footage, CGI taking up the majority of things- would be vanquished. Gone. Actually, to be honest- visually, John Wick is the most comic book-y movie that exists. The way each shot is edited has a really good fluidity to it. You can thread together Wick’s processing of thoughts and how he makes last-minute decisions, how he reads a room, and how he lays out a plan of attack.
On top of being The Matrix meets The Crow, John Wick is full of glorious long takes in which Reeves very obviously does his own stunts and sequences of events that actually make sense. The coordination all three films must have taken… Everything is pretty much hand-to-hand; no moves are repeated and it’s all so innovative and intricate. It’s raw and gritty and there’s always a good suspenseful element when the action looks painful. And while I enjoy Dwayne Johnson takedowns at all times of the day, it’s kind of a relief that our titular character is running around New York City as an injured man. Not sure the last time I saw a big protagonist have an injury more than a little scratch that actually hinders their abilities.
What I wasn’t expecting was the world-building, both aesthetically and story-wise. I really like learning about… whatever time period this is supposed to be in, even though it doesn’t try to explain too much. John Wick lets details come to you as you need to know, rather than trying to explain everything at once and exposition dump via dialogue. It helps that everything is simplified- John Wick is MAD. John Wick is in TROUBLE. John Wick is in MORE TROUBLE- as things don’t get too convoluted and in the way of each other.
This helps make all movies of the series very strong individually, each contributing to the overall world of John Wick. I can easily see this as a miniseries, but I do really like them as films. I’d be good with maybe two more John Wicks, maybe three. I’d be iffy on a spinoff series. I’m a fan of the finality and self-containment, as things that aim big are more likely to fall short, and John Wick uses each minute very wisely. John Wick is not completely impervious to this as there are a few stumbles in John Wick: Chapter Two, as it almost depends on a few too many of the previous tropes; and in Parabellum, there are a few unnecessary characters and location changes more for face than practicality. I hope they pull in these reins a little more as the series goes on.