Will Sorg – Movies Guy
John Wick is one of the great oddities of the modern cinematic landscape. This is a character who is not tethered to a giant tentpole franchise like Marvel or Star Wars, and he’s not a remake of a nostalgic property like Top Gun. John Wick was birthed from a planned direct to DVD project of the same name starring Keanu Reeves as a former-hitman-turned-revenge-seeker after his last gift from his dead wife is taken from him. Lionsgate’s purchasing of the film saved it from its direct to DVD fate and the film was a massive hit. From that simplistic idea a four movie series has blossomed and with the hard work of director and stunt legend Chad Stahelski and all the countless people who worked on every movie it has become the gold standard for modern action films.
Perhaps the more interesting aspect of the John Wick franchise is that it essentially kept its simplicity. Yes, there is a near constant evolution of the setting with the secret assassin organizations that populate the world becoming more and more complicated and comically overexplained with each subsequent film. However at its core, each movie is about John Wick needing to accomplish a single goal, and having to kill a lot of people to do it.
The films are always well received for their entertainment factors and the technical perfection, however a lot of the time it is hard to balance the action with what is typically an incredibly weak script. The first film has the simple revenge tale to lean on, but by the time the second and third movies came out it was clear that the franchise was not the best at writing compelling stories. For me this is why the fourth one outclasses each previous film so hard that it’s not even close. The series has a very bad habit of casting remarkably dull actors in the supporting roles and a lot of the villains are equally dull in most of the films. However this film is in all honesty one of the most well casted, entertaining pieces of blockbuster action ever made. The returning actors like Laurence Fishburne and Ian McShane continue to be delightful if a bit one note, and the new colorful cast of antagonists, supporting characters and general oddballs are second to none. Bill Skarsgård’s villainous performance as the Marquis, a man whose whole job is to find people to kill Wick, is so much fun to watch. Meanwhile Samier Anderson plays a dog loving, cowboy inspired assassin whose goal is to keep Wick alive long enough that the bounty on his head is enough to buy a mansion.
The two most vital performances are those of Keanu Reeves and Donnie Yen. Reeves is of course the eponymous assassin in all his cheesy glory. The man is a national treasure and his physical acting is phenomenal but his line delivery is so terrible in this movie that I actually am convinced it is meant to be played for laughs. Meanwhile Donnie Yen easily gives one of his best performances as Wick’s old friend and adversary Caine. Yen is arguably one of the most famous martial artists and action stars in the world and his presence elevates the film from great to amazing. His portrayal of the blind hitman Caine is perfect. His body language, unorthodox fighting, and genuine personality makes for an unforgettable character. Whenever he is on screen the film becomes true action magic.
The slapstick inspired action has plenty of moments for humor and oftentimes the film plays its concept so seriously that the jokes become even funnier after they are delivered with the grim seriousness of every other line. This, along with the quite literally relentless action brings the whole film into a level of pitch perfect entertainment that is almost impossible to replicate. This is a three hour film that is roughly 75% action. It should not work and yet it does effortlessly. This is the perfect conclusion to the series. The budget is perfectly utilized, everything looks visually stunning, and the stunts and set pieces are breathtaking. The film knows exactly what is needed to mix things up and never gets stale or repetitive. If you’re looking for the best action movie of the year- and perhaps the decade- look no more.