I thought John Wick would be another boring but very bloody action film; I was wrong. Okay, it’s definitely action-packed and there’s more violence than a war scene, but Leitch and Stahelski seem to have taken a new angle on the ‘assassin’ genre. There’s the stereotypical Russian mob, the calculating hitman (Reeves), guns, fast cars and more guns. However, this is not the New York City we know, or anywhere else recognisable to the average viewer; this strange, gangster dystopia is played out in an entirely unfamiliar setting where crime seems to be the norm.
Wick (Reeves) is an ex-hitman who has temporarily managed to shun his old habits in favour of love. The viewer is not made aware of his former occupation until his wife, Helen, dies and he is attacked in his own home by a young, Russian mob. The mob not only steal his car and viciously beat him, but they kill his dog too, a posthumous gift from Helen to help him mourn her loss. When they kill his dog, they kill his hope and humanity and it’s not until this moment that we see the real side to John Wick. The film begins to reveal its dark nature as Wick sets off to find and murder the dog’s killer, Iosef, the son of Wick’s former employer.
Although this film is loaded with violence, there’s a certain style and flair to the way it is delivered on the screen. Wick belongs to an organisation that treats crime as a professional business: there are gangster ‘colleagues’ and the company headquarters is a luxury hotel; metaphorical ‘dinner reservations’ are booked in order to destroy any evidence of murder; the language used in the organisation is coded and there is a code of conduct to abide by for all members. In short, this is definitely not your average action feature. It’s when the viewer is exposed to a brand new currency of gold coins that it first becomes clear all isn’t as it seems with this world. As the film progresses, the lack of any government authority is evident and the detachment from the viewer’s reality is cemented. Leitch and Stahelski add to this ominous atmosphere by setting almost the entire film at night creating their own stage for violence.
Despite being deeply rooted in the action and adventure genre, at times John Wick is unintentionally funny – people actually laughed out loud in the cinema. The jokes are awkward and subtle and probably only really appeal to people with a dry sense of humour (the reception it received in a British cinema is probably a lot different to the one it received in the States). The storyline can be ridiculous and far-fetched and there are no big shocks in the plot. However, although it’s almost plotless, it is quite an achievement that Leitch and Stahelski have created something so dramatic and unique in this genre. They have found a fresh way of approaching the action thriller and if you’re a big action fan, then I’d definitely recommend John Wick.