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Film Review: John Wick

Poster for the movie John Wick.

Plot: Still grieving from the death of his wife (Bridget Moynahan), a retired gunman (Keanu Reeves) returns to his old ways when the son (Alfie Allen) of a powerful gangster (Michael Nyqvist) takes away the last gift from his deceased wife.

This is what The Equalizer should have been. Both movies are about retired bad asses who reluctantly get dragged back into their life of violence. Whereas The Equalizer is a bloated mess that goes no where for over two hours, John Wick gets right to the point. It’s a tightly packed story that delivers a solid punch, with a character you’re a hell of a lot more invested in. While a little muddled at times, and a second half that wears a bit thin, this movie is worth your ticket just to see Keanu Reeves kick some ass Taken style.


For a movie that’s mostly blunt force violence, it surprisingly has a light touch at the beginning. With very little dialogue, the film hits you with a subtle montage of powerful images that do a great job at creating a quiet atmosphere before the shit really hits the fan. This immediately gets us emotionally invested in John Wick. For as bad as things seem for this guy following his wife’s funeral, she leaves him one last present making it seem like everything is going to be okay. When John’s potential happiness is ripped out from under him though, you desperately want to see him get revenge on these scumbags, and that’s ultimately why the film works.

Unlike The Equalizer where we get no clues about Denzel Washington’s character being a killer, there are clear cut hints at John Wick’s past, so you know he’s a ticking time bomb that needs to be set off. Keanu Reeves does what he does best – looks both confused and confident at the same time. This is definitely one of his better performances, as there are points where Wick is truly terrifying. But there are also moments where he’s funny and likable. You can tell why so many people have respect for him. That’s also one of the films biggest strengths and weaknesses. Everywhere this guy goes is like walking into Cheers – everybody knows his name. Literally, everywhere he goes. This was an endearing quality throughout the movie, but some of the stuff he gets away with is flat out ridiculous.

Reeves isn’t the only one carrying the film though. Willem Dafoe was a welcome addition as a former associate of Wick. While Dafoe is great here, he was severely underutilized. The relationship between him and Wick definitely needed more screen time, as it plays a crucial role throughout the plot. We also have Adrianne Palicki as a bad ass assassin, and Michael Nyqvist is a solid mobster antagonist for Wick. Ian McShane also pops up as a shady ally, but that character didn’t really go anywhere. His scenes with Reeves were fairly underwhelming.

Speaking of underwhelming, there comes a point towards the middle where the film starts to lose steam, but just as I was about to give up on it, it pulls you right back in. In an amazingly shot sequence, Wick absolutely rips through this club like a wild animal. This is what we came to see. Everything about this scene works – the music, the camera work, and the violence is just brutal.

Unfortunately this momentum is lost in the final leg of the film. The third act really drags, as I started to get that “let’s wrap it up” feeling. While there’s some missed opportunities, John Wick has it where it counts, which is great action and fight sequences, but more importantly a character you’re totally invested in. If you want to see Keanu Reeves kick some ass, you won’t leave disappointed.

Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)

Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.

Daniel Cohen
Daniel Cohen
Daniel Cohen likes movies and bagels, and that’s pretty much it. Aside from writing Box Office predictions, Daniel hosts the monthly Batman by the Numbers Podcast on the Breakcast feed. Speaking of Batman, If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.


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