John Wick says, “People keep asking am I back? Well, yeah! I’m thinking I’m back!”
Back from where? We’ve never heard of you before, Mr Wick!
In fact, he’s got to come back from the brink, at least, since the film starts off with him looking like he’s almost dead, whilst catching a memory on his phone of his late wife – who died from an undisclosed terminal illness – as he passes out, expecting to die. Seeing that he then is shown getting up first thing in the morning, it’s obvious that this is going to be one of those films where the majority is told in flashback, it will eventually catch up to the point where we first see him, and then go past it, leading to a conclusion.
“Oh, but Dom! How did we know he wouldn’t really die, and so you’ve spoiled it for us!” Because John Wick 2 has been planned, that’s why.
Within a few days of his wife’s funeral, he gets a late-night delivery of a puppy, a present from his late wife. Awww…. Soon after, a Russian nutter at a petrol station – Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, acting about as well as his sister, Lily, sings) – asks to buy his car, but John tells him it’s not for sale. Next day, the dog’s sparked by a disturbance which is the three Russian guys he met earlier. Wanting to steal the car, they smash up the place and… kill the dog. Big mistake!
Still with a bloodied shirt, he gets the bus out to a car lot owned by his friend Aurelio (John Leguizamo popping up briefly to collect the cheque), since he just *knows* the car was taken there. And why bother to skip round the houses and waste time when there’s bullets to be shot!
This causes a problem for Iosef’s father Viggo (The Millennium Trilogy‘s Michael Nyqvist), as he explains their family have history with John Wick and, basically, he’s the ONE man you don’t mess with.
Adding Willem Dafoe into the mix – so you have the baddie from Speed 2 meeting the goodie from Speed – there’s martial arts, brilliantly choreographed fight scenes, gunshots to the face. In fact, there’s gunfights aplenty, including one of those scenes where they burst into a good guy’s house to shoot it up, but they could’ve done it elsewhere, since otherwise he’ll have to get the decorators in to rerender the walls, vigourously filling in the gaping holes and massive cracks.
In the world of John Wick, every location is spick and span, often bathed in just one colour, sometimes two. The garage is bathed in mostly blue light with plenty of lens flare, for example, like something from a Grand Theft Auto game. And whenever the scene is set outside, smoke rises from street gratings. Strange gold coins get you access to everywhere, which is never explained, but you get the fact that he moves in some nefarious and underground circles, that aren’t part of the normal places anyone goes.
In fact, since John Wick’s world is so cool, you start to think that his wife and dog’s horrible deaths are the best things that ever happened to him!
Hilariously and intentionally daft dialogue is delivered in hushed, gravelly tones:
- Winston: “Have you returned to the fold?”
John: “Just visiting(!)”
And on seeing a doctor to patch him up:
- Doctor: “Do you need anything for the pain?”
John: (holds up glass of bourbon): “No, I’ve got that covered.”
And also when he delivers his line about people asking about whether he’s back… because NO-ONE asked him to be back. However, I’m very glad he arrived because this is a film from which I wasn’t expecting a great deal, and it turned out to be a wonderful quick slice of nicely-directed entertainment with just the right amount of humour – an important element so many films like this forget to include.
And I’ve almost got to the end of the first part of the review without mentioning some of the other fab cast members – there’s Dean Winters, aka Ryan O’Reily from Oz, the lovely Adrianne Palicki as Ms. Perkins, the one and only Ian McShane, and a double-header of The Wire stars in Lance Reddick and Clarke Peters!
Normally, a film with two directors – as this has – is a recipe for disaster, unless it’s a CGI kids movie with so much going on. However, this one has both Chad Stahelski and David Leitch as joint producer-directors and it works a treat, so they’re clearly doing something right. Due to the regulations set out by the Directors Guild of America, they can’t be listed as such, so respectively are credited as director and producer. In addition, Chad Stahelski was the stunt down for Keanu Reeves in The Matrix Trilogy.
John Wick was also conceived as a trilogy. So perhaps the two sequels will be: John Wick 2: He’s back!, and John Wick 3: He’s back again!… Oh, but since he’s back in the first film, then maybe they should be John Wick 2: He’s back again!, and John Wick 3: He’s back once again like the renegade master! Oh, my head hurts…
Now, given how much fun and action-packed this film was, can someone please let Messrs Stahelski and Leitch direct the next Bond film? Quantum of Solace and Skyfall were really lame and we need to get back to the enjoyment of Casino Royale.
One slight moan…
- When John’s wife’s EKG monitor is heard flatlining, it’s just left switch on to wail away… but in reality, the doctor would knock that sound off.
And something potentially spoiler-ish…
Go to page 2 for the presentation and the extras.
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and looks as pin-sharp as you’d expect, with many locations deliciously colourful as previously stated. There really is nothing to complain about, here.
The sound is in DTS HD 5.1 and as it’s an action film, there’s a lot of gunfire along with a few explosions. And in the case of the former, there’s a fair few split-surround moments. It delivers a very pleasing aural soundscape. The film is mostly in English with occasional Russian language, but anything pertinent is subtitled onscreen, often in a rather cool way.
The extras are as follows:
- Don’t F*#% With John Wick (15:17): Yes, that’s precisely how it’s titled in the extras in this behind the scenes piece which begins showing how Keanu Reeves did solid training for four months, including driving, so I guess it really was him throwing that fancy car around, early on. Well, he did a bit of it, not al. There’s plenty of cast and crew members enthusing about working with him.
There’s also “gun fu”, mixing kung fu and Judo with guns. A *lot* of people die in this film.
- Destiny of a Collective (6:20): A brief look at the work of Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, and how it led to making John Wick.
- The Assassin’s Code (5:17): Going into John Wick’s underworld, where everything takes place in the real world, but is so different. There’s also a description, of sorts, for the gold coins, but I won’t spoil that here.
- The Red Circle (6:28): A featurette on the club in the film.
- NYC Noir (6:01): Giving the film a dark feel, like a noir movie.
- Audio commentary: from producer-director duo Chad Stahelski and David Leitch.
Warner’s menu system is an odd one, since it features just a static shot of Keanu as John Wick, but the individual menus are very quick to navigate and pleasing to use as the options slide across, such as the elements of the extras menu. Other distributors could do worse than have a look. However, it would be nice to have a menu with some movement and music in there. Then again, you know when you’re watching a menu and the same clip is going round and round and round and round and round and round? Well, on the plus side, we don’t get that.
Sadly, when it comes to chapters, there’s just 12 over the 101-minute running time. The recent Cake had 32! Hey! Warner! Where’s the chapters?!
Running time: 101 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
Released: September 21st 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (ARRIRAW (2.8K) and Anamorphic Hawk Scope)
Disc Format: BD50
Directors: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch
Producers: Chad Stahelski, David Leitch, Basil Iwanyk and Eva Longoria
Screenplay: Derek Kolstad
Music: Tyler Bates and Joel J Richard
John Wick: Keanu Reeves
Viggo Tarasov: Michael Nyqvist
Iosef Tarasov: Alfie Allen
Marcus: Willem Dafoe
Avi: Dean Winters
Ms. Perkins: Adrianne Palicki
Gregori: Omer Barnea
Victor: Toby Leonard Moore
Kirill: Daniel Bernhardt
Helen: Bridget Moynahan
Aurelio: John Leguizamo
Winston: Ian McShane
Addy: Bridget Regan
Hotel Manager/Charon: Lance Reddick
Kuzma: Keith Jardine
Nicholai: Tait Fletcher
Ivan: Kazimieras Tauginas
Alexander: Alexander Frekey
Jimmy: Thomas Sadoski
Continental Doctor: Randall Duk Kim
Charlie: David Patrick Kelly
Harry: Clarke Peters
Francis: Kevin Nash
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.
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