John Wick is a simple revenge story. Retired hit man's wife passes away, leaves him a puppy as a dying gift. Said puppy is killed by sadistic car thief and hit man goes on killing spree to avenge said dog.
So what makes this simple story an amazing film? For starters Keanu Reeves is back on the top of his game. His acting is top notch, as the audience feels like they are riding the same emotional rollercoaster that John Wick is throughout the film. It is almost as if he has not skipped a beat since his action days. John Wick is so fleshed out by Keanu you know every little thing that makes him tick.
Add to the mix an amazing supporting cast, from the sadistic Iosef Tarasov, Alfie Allen, who you already hated from Game of Thrones to his father, Viggo Tarasov, Michael Nyqvist (The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), to the small supporting roles played by Willem Dafoe (Spider-man, Clear and Present Danger), Adrianne Palici (G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Supernatural), Ian McShane (Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Death Race) Lance Reddick (Fringe, White House Down), and John Leguizamo (Ice Age, Spawn). Each one has a certain place in the film the moves the story along gracefully. They are all important to the story and add wonderful elements to Reeve's performance.
Stunt Coordinators turned directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, set the perfect "film noir" tone for this film. The color palettes, framing of shots and tone of the film let us know that although John Wick is set up in some type of reality it is a bit off and different from our own. The framing and directing of the action scenes are flawless and perfectly choreographed. In fact some of the action scenes will remind audience members what a John Woo (Broken Arrow, Face/Off) type film looked like back in the last century, when action films didn't go for fast MTV style cuts and PG-13 ratings.
Last but not least the music by Tyler Bates (Guardians of The Galaxy, 300) and the new song Marilyn Manson, Killing Strangers, are perfect fits the film. They add the suspense and tension when needed, or provide extra release as John Wick takes out the "trash" in the name of his puppy. While the score came out this week on Varese Sarabande records, the Marilyn Manson song unfortunately has an unknown release date.
John Wick did break one of Hollywood's cardinal rules about not killing dogs in a film (it usually drops the box-office to zero dollars). However, the death is handled very gracefully, and the fact that John transforms back into the "boogeyman" and makes everyone pay for the loss of his dog (and then some) helps the pain of seeing a dog pass away on screen. Even though in this reviewer's mind the loss of about 5-60 people lives is still not enough for the life of one dog. Interestingly, it seems the men in the audience were more disturbed by the dog's death than the women were.
John Wick is an amazing character driven film that will hopefully reenergize both Keanu Reeve's career, and these types of films at the box office. If John Wick becomes the underdog of fall 2014 films I do beg the studios to not make a sequel as this film already has the perfect ending to the story. Let John Wick rest, while in the mind of dog lovers around the world Keanu Reeves and John Wick will go down in history as the superhero and champion for our four legged friends everywhere.