Movies to Watch With Your Dad: John Wick
My fellow Flickcharters and bloggers here at Flickchart World Headquarters are well aware of my love for what I’m calling a “new cult classic”, the phenomenal John Wick. Released in 2014, John Wick is everything I love about movies. There was no pomp and circumstance surrounding its release like there is for so many new releases these days, so discovering this little film is part of the experience. It makes the viewer feel like they’ve stumbled upon something special all their own. It has a simple but unique story with an engrossing world surrounding its characters. And the action. Simply put, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. So why would it make an excellent movie to watch with your dad? I just told you.
Starring Keanu Reeves as the titular character, John Wick tells the story of a man who has just lost his wife to a long term illness. At his wife’s wake, after the guests all leave, John receives a package sent from his wife prior to her death. John then has the unlucky stroke of running afoul of a Russian mobster’s bratty son, and his gift is taken from him. The mobsters think they’ve gotten away with their crime – they steal a man’s car and take it to a chop shop for new plates. The problem, however, is that the man they stole the car from, unbeknownst them, just happens to be the most ruthless hitman in the city.
Once the Russian mobster learns of his son’s misdeeds, and more importantly, who the misdeeds have been committed against, he sends out a squad to John Wick’s house in the hopes of squashing the incident before it turns into something more. This is the part where the viewer learns what type of man John Wick really is. Using what has been referred to as “gun-fu,” John eliminates the entire team without even breaking a sweat. John then learns who has perpetrated this attempted hit, and more importantly, whose son attacked him and sets out to punish the boy.
Many would consider this relatively simplistic plot a negative, but it actually works for this movie. I can think of several movies of this sort that would tend to over complicate the plot in order to make the movie seem like it’s something more than it really is. John Wick is not one of those movies. Think John Woo’s Hard Boiled imbued with hand-to-hand combat, except the hand-to-hand part is pistols, then you have some idea as to the kind of action involved.It knows what its merits are, and chooses to focus on the action instead of an overly wrought story. This is a revenge tale told which such style that it doesn’t matter that there’ve been countless revenge tales told since the beginning of film.
There are a few excellent performances in this movie, but I will focus solely on Keanu Reeves. He is often derided as an actor that is not able to emote particularly well. He certainly has appeared in his share of films that didn’t perform, partly due to his stiff acting. On top of that, he is still haunted by the ghosts of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and The Matrix. People don’t really know how to react to a Keanu movie. John Wick is the perfect vehicle for him. His quiet solitude makes his physicality and swift vengeance that much more effective and believable, and he carries the movie because of it. This is a man who is not only lashing out at one person who wronged him – this is a man lashing out at an entire world for taking away everything he cared about.
Ok, so the action is part and parcel of the film. Keanu went through extensive training and rehearsal to get the fighting/shooting style of this film right, and it pays off extremely well. From the scene where his house gets invaded by a team of masked thugs onwards, John’s style is fluid and most definitely brutal. Watch him roll over an enemy’s back, latch onto him and pull him to the ground and finally deliver a brutal headshot from about 2 inches away. Watching the behind-the-scenes feature on the choreography will give insight into the amount of thought each of the film’s approximately 75 kills was given. Think John Woo’s Hard Boiled imbued with hand-to-hand combat, except the hand-to-hand part is pistols, then you have some idea as to the kind of action involved.
Lastly, the film’s creators were able to create an entirely unique world in which its characters live. Pretty much everyone who even hears John Wick’s name almost visibly shudders. He’s nearly regarded more as a mythical beast than a man. Once John begins to pursue his enemies, he arrives at The Continental, a hotel in the middle of an unnamed city where hitmen of all sorts stay when they are on a job. While in The Continental, the house rule is that no hits are to be conducted while on the premises. And believe me – you do not want to break that rule. There’s even a code word for cleaning up after a job has been completed, and its own special currency for paying for such services.
From beginning to end, this is a movie that was almost exclusively meant for watching with a small crowd of close friends. It’s got everything you would need – amazing, visceral action, straightforward story and an incredible performance from its lead actor. Why not make a dinner reservation to watch this movie with your dad?
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