To enter the world of John Wick, you need to accept one very simple fact. Mr Wick is a fucking badass. Get that into your head and you will be fine, because this is revenge porn that isn’t pretending its central character is anything less than a super hero. Wick’s nickname is the boogeyman and every time he steps foot in a room, every person in it hopes that he isn’t there for them.
Yet, at the start of the film John is a retired man, settled down with his wife and seemingly living in bliss. Sadly, that’s ripped away when said wife dies and he enters a mourning period which is only brightened by the arrival of the cutest puppy you will ever see. Purchased by his wife before her death, it begins to help him heal, that is before the son of a local Russian mobster takes it into his head to steal Wick’s car and in the process kill said puppy. The aftermath involves Wick going on a rampage of destruction, which takes in most of the shady world he used to call home.
Having a man snap because someone killed the puppy his dead wife gave him, might not seem like one of the great set ups. But that puppy is damn cute and if like me you are a lover of all things four-legged that woof, you will quickly find that you are rooting for Wick every step of the way. It also helps that Keanu Reeves is on arse prodding form. If his action credentials have taken a bit of a beating in recent years, this is him proving that he ain’t dead yet. He’s brilliant as the cold and methodical Wick, dealing out beatings like they are an exact science. Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch previously worked as stunt co-coordinators (and in fact as Reeves stunt doubles on The Matrix) and you can tell that each fight has been meticulously put together. They flow with a brutality that keeps your eyes rapt on the screen. There’s no blood cut out in order to get a 12A rating here.
It’s also a surprisingly strong supporting cast. The likes of Willem Dafoe and Ian McShane are reduced to bit parts at most, as an old hitman friend of Wick’s and the owner of the intriguing Continental Hotel respectively. Alfie Allen is great as the Russian playboy, who attracts Wick’s ire with his dog killing antics. He shows the same ability that helped him make his name in Game of Thrones, as he goes from cocky young arsehole to terrified young punk over the course of the movie and you can take a lot of pleasure in watching Wick hunt him down. Most importantly however, they all stick with the premise of the movie. From the second mob boss Biggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) first hears what his son has done to Wick, right through to the closing seconds, they all act with reverence to this almost mythical man, who has the ability to take on entire rooms of people without breaking a sweat.
With its success having already led to talk of a sequel, John Wick’s world is one you want to know more about. It’s a world of rules and of people who enforce them. The Continental Hotel, which serves as an almost hub area for the film, is set up as a safe zone, one which if you violate has consequences which are suitably brutal. On top of that, everything is paid for by gold coins, which are always used but never explained. It leaves a shadowy air of mystery over this already very shadowy film and it means you come out wanting to know more about this world and the rules that govern it.
At the end of the day, John Wick delivers exactly what you want of it. Bone crushing action sequences and Keanu Reeves returning to the action star that he used to be. What comes in the future may prove to be very interesting, but as things stand, John Wick can already lay claim to being one of the most satisfying action movies of the year.