One genre of movies I enjoy is the Unstoppable Killing Machine on Revenge Quest. Movies like Man On Fire and Taken featuring men (always men; someone fix this and get Angelina Jolie to star in it) who have been wronged by Bad Guys who didn't know who they were messing with and die horribly as a result.
Keanu Reeves is the titular John Wick (terrible title BTW), a guy with a nice house and pretty wife who suddenly dies from some unspecified medical calamity. After the obligatory rain-drenched funeral, a delivery arrives: a pet carrier with a puppy inside and a note from his wife. I'm not clear as to how this was pre-arranged, but it's just a McGuffin.
One day while gassing up his vintage Mustang, a Russian guy (played by Theon Greyjoy aka Alfie Allen) approaches him asking how much for the car and not taking kindly to Wick's rebuff of his offer. How unkindly is immediately made clear as Theon and his pals break into Wick's place, beat him up, kill the poor puppy and take his ride. When Theon shows up at John Leguizamo's auto shop asking for new VIN number and papers for his stolen Mustang, he gets punched in the face. The reason why is spelled out in this phone conversation between Leguizamo and Theon's Russian Mob Daddy:
MOB DADDY: Did you lay hands on my son?
LEGUIZAMO: Yes, I did.
MOB DADDY: Why would you do such a thing?
LEGUIZAMO: Because he stole John Wick's car and killed his dog.
MOB DADDY: Oh. [hangs up]
That's right, folks, John Wick is a Jules' wallet in Pulp Fiction and SPOILER ALERT by the end of the movie there will be a LOT of job openings for minions in the Russian Mob.
There's a bunch of tangential aspects I'm not recapping because they're just trimmings, not the central murder steak which makes John Wick a good entry in the UKMoRQ pantheon. The reputation Wick has is frequently referenced on the sly, not by constant proclamations of his badassdom. The missus wasn't crazy about Reeves' performance, finding him too young (he's 50 now, but looks 40) and bland, but I found his usual limited range suited for the slow burn required here. The supporting players are also good in their cutout characters. Movies like this aren't about deep characterizations, mmmkay?
The lions share of credit for the brutal efficiency of John Wick are directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (only the former is credited due to DGA's usual shenanigans about directing teams), veteran stunt coordinators whom Reeves met making The Matrix and stage the mayhem with a clarity of geography and lack of shaky cam and edit fu that makes too many modern action flicks spastic, incomprehensible messes. I suspect they were sick of how their craft has been masked by sloppy shooting and cutting and wanted to demonstrate how you should be showcasing a proper fight. It may not be quite as kinetic as classic Robert Rodriguez (e.g. the bar gunfight in Desperado), but even R.Rod isn't R.Rod these days.
Slick and stylish, John Wick delivers the body count goods for those looking for an action fix.
Score: 7/10. Rent it.