Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynahan, Ian McShane, Michael Nyqvist, and Alfie Allen in John Wick (2014)


(directors: Chad Stahelski/David Leitch; screenwriters: Derek Kolstad/Joel Zadak; cinematographer: Jonathan Sela; editor: Elisabet Ronalds; music: Tyler Bates/Joel J. Richard; cast: Keanu Reeves (John Wick), Michael Nyqvist (Viggo Tarasov), Alfie Allen (Iosef Tarasov), Adrianne Palicki (Ms. Perkins), Bridget Moynahan (Helen), Dean Winters (Avi), Lance Reddick (Hotel Manager/Charon), Toby Leonard Moore (Victor), Ian McShane (Winston, hotel manager), John Leguizamo (Aurelio), Willem Dafoe (Marcus), Munro M. Bonnell(Catholic Priest); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: ; producer: David Leitch/Basil Iwanyk, Eva Longoria and Michael Witherill; Summit Entertainment; 2014)

“Revels in the killings.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

If you’ve seen one of these formulaic senseless revenge films whereby a lone wolf vic becomes a one-man killing machine against an army of bad dudes, then you probably have seen them all. Co-directors Chad Stahelski(former martial arts teacher and Reeves’s stunt double in “Constantine” and two of the “Matrix” films) and the actor David Leitch helm this amoral stylishly violent revenge thriller, where everyone is a bad character. The action directors could care less about story, keeping it baseless and pumping up the action with well-choreographed scenes. Writers Derek Kolstad and Joel Zadak keep it senseless, video-game gory and throw in some tongue-in-cheek macabre humor as a bone for the more demanding viewer.

The bad-ass retired hit man, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), buries his cancer-ridden wife Helen of four years in NJ. While gassing up at a station while driving his vintage 1969 dark grey Mustang home from the funeral, Wick refuses to sell his car to the bullying punky customer Josef (Alfie Allen). That night Josef and two of his henchmen enter Wick’s NJ home and steal the car, kill his cute beagle puppy Daisy and work Wick over. Josef is the son of the ruthless Russian mob boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), who tells his obnoxious bratty son he made a big mistake. When the mob boss calls to make a deal, Wick is in no mood for civilities and hangs up. Wick loved his car, and the puppy was a meaningful last gift from the wife he loved. So dad takes out a $2 million contract on Wick from an outsider and also has his regular gang go after the hit man who once worked for him. From here-on there’s one bloody-massacre after another. The first occurs as 12 home invaders are slaughtered by Wick. That’s followed by mass murders in a night-club, where scores of gang members are killed by the relentless Wick on the strobe-lit dance floor, on different floors while on the lookout and in the bathhouse.

The hitmen hired by dad include Willem Dafoe and the black-leather clad Adrianne Palicki, who makes the mistake of attempting her assassination in a mobster-run hotel that discourages violence on its premise by promising to get even with any rule breakers.

This pic revels in the killings, offers a hare-brained story, the dialogue is banal and the undeveloped characters are superficial. It’s the kind of B-film where the violence is the thing to love, as Jonathan Sela’s camera makes love to the dead. If such senseless screen brutality is not your thing, this is a hard pic to stomach.



REVIEWED ON 11/11/2014 GRADE: C+