John Wick is a perfect movie.
Note: I’m not saying it’s the perfect movie or the best movie or even a great movie. I’m saying it’s a perfect movie. It delivers exactly what was promised (solid action and a handful of laughs), a good, somewhat blank, turn by its cipher of a star (Keanu Reeves) who is playing a cipher of a man, and solid supporting performances. Perhaps most importantly, it does all of this in 96 minutes.
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This is the platonic ideal of a disposable action movie. It gives you everything you want, nothing you don’t, and gets you in and out of the theater before you have a chance to get bored.
Keanu Reeves plays a retired hit man whose wife has just died after a brief battle with an unnamed disease. Following her funeral, Wick receives a gift from the grave: a cute little puppy, something for him to connect to so he doesn’t have to grieve alone. However, after a few brief scenes with the impossibly cute dog and his awesome vintage Mustang, Wick’s newfound lease on life is shattered: a pack of Russian thugs break into his home, steal his car, and kill his dog.
And with that we’re off! Wick is not only going to kill the bastards who destroyed the things in his life that he still loved, he’s going to kill anyone who stands in his way. While getting the job done, he’ll stay in The Continental, a hotel for hit men where the only rule is that no business can be done on the property—like holy ground in Highlander, but for hitters. The hotel is owned by Ian McShane, its concierge is Lance Reddick, and the names of their characters don’t matter because McShane and Reddick are great.
There are several solid action sequences. My favorite is probably the one that takes place in a nightclub where techno beats matched blows delivered during Reeves’ deadly dance of deadly dying death. And the universe that writer Derek Kolstad has created is rather interesting, with its hit man holy grounds and body disposal teams and gold-coin-based economic system. I would easily pony up $10 for a sequel based on the comings and goings in McShane’s hotel.
It’s not going to change your life. But John Wick is funny and taut, with a handful of wicked action scenes. What more could you want?