John Wick is a 2014 American action thriller film directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. Starring Keanu Reeves,Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, andWillem Dafoe, the film stars Reeves as John Wick, a retired hitman seeking vengeance for the killing of his puppy, a gift from his recently deceased wife. Stahelski and Leitch, both of 87Eleven Productions, directed the film together, though Leitch was uncredited.
The film was written by Derek Kolstad, who completed the screenplay in 2012 and further developed it for Thunder Road Pictures. The film was produced by Basil Iwanyk of Thunder Road Pictures, Leitch, Eva Longoria and Michael Witherill. It marks Stahelski and Leitch’s directorial debut as a team after multiple separate credits as second unit directors andstunt coordinators. They previously worked with Reeves as stunt doubles on The Matrix trilogy.
Stahelski and Leitch’s approach to action scenes drew upon their admiration for anime and martial arts films, and the film’s use of fight choreographers and gun fu techniques from Hong Kong action cinema was additionally influential in the development of the piece. As well as prominently paying homage to works such as John Woo‘s The Killer, Jean-Pierre Melville‘s Le Cercle Rouge and Le Samouraï, John Boorman‘s Point Blank, and the spaghetti western subgenre of Western films.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves), who just lost his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) to an undisclosed illness, receives a gift from her posthumously in the form of a puppy named Daisy, along with a letter from her saying she arranged for him to have Daisy to help him cope with her demise. Initially indifferent to Daisy, he eventually connects to the puppy as they spend the day driving around in his vintage ’69 Mustang. He encounters a trio of Russian gang members at a gas station and their leader Iosef (Alfie Allen) insists on buying his car, but John refuses to sell and greets Iosef’s snide remark with a retort before leaving. The three follow John to his home, break in at night, and attack John, who watches defenselessly as they kill Daisy before stealing his car.
The following day, Iosef attempts to have the car modified by Aurelio (John Leguizamo), the owner of a chop shop who refuses to take it and hits Iosef when he realizes who it belongs to and what Iosef did to steal it. John subsequently visits Aurelio, who tells him Iosef is the son of Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), head of the Russian crime syndicate in New York and John’s former employer, before lending him another car. Aurelio, who works with Viggo, is forced to explain what happened to Viggo, who berates Iosef and explains who John Wick is: his best assassin, nicknamed Baba Yaga(“the Boogeyman”), who retired after falling in love with a woman and had helped Viggo gain control of his syndicate by single-handedly eliminating all competition, a task Viggo considered “impossible.”
Viggo, wanting to protect his son, attempts to talk John out of seeking retribution, which John abruptly disregards, prompting Viggo to send a hit squad to John’s house to execute him, only for John to dispatch them swiftly. Viggo puts a $2 million bounty on John and first gives the offer to Marcus (Willem Dafoe), a veteran assassin and John’s mentor, who accepts. John subsequently seeks refuge at the Continental, a hotel that exclusively caters to assassins, with the rule that no business can be conducted on premises. When Viggo learns of this, he doubles the bounty. John learns from Winston (Ian McShane), the owner of the Continental, that Viggo has Iosef protected at his nightclub, the Red Circle.
John goes to the club and kills Iosef’s friend Victor before dispatching most of the security staff, but Iosef escapes after John is subdued by Viggo’s henchman Kirill. John escapes back to the Continental to treat his wounds before being attacked by Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), an assassin and former acquaintance of John’s who had taken the contract to kill him. Her surprise attack on John is foiled when Marcus, who had been watching John sleep through a sniper rifle’s scope from a building across the street, wakes John up by shooting the pillow next to his head. John eventually subdues Perkins and forces her to reveal the location of Viggo’s cash before leaving her with a neighbor and friend, Harry (Clarke Peters), to await her punishment for breaking the hotel rules. Perkins eventually breaks free and kills Harry.
John goes to a church, which is a front for the cash, eliminates all the guards, and burns Viggo’s money, as well as various intelligence against the police and government officials that Viggo uses as leverage. When Viggo arrives at the church, John ambushes them, but is eventually subdued. Viggo taunts him for causing trouble over a dog and thinking he could leave his old life behind. He leaves John to be tortured and killed by Kirill and another henchman, but Marcus kills the other henchman, allowing John to break free and kill Kirill. John intercepts Viggo’s car and forces him to reveal Iosef’s location and pull the bounty, which Viggo reluctantly does. John goes to the safe house where Iosef is hiding, and kills all of the guards before killing Iosef.
Perkins sees that John and Marcus have been in contact and tells Viggo, who has Marcus tortured and killed in his home over his betrayal. Viggo contacts John about Marcus’ death, luring John to his home, where Perkins is waiting to ambush him. Before she can do so, she gets called to a secret meeting with Winston, who revokes her membership to the Continental for breaking the rules and has her swiftly executed by a handful of other assassins. Winston calls John to inform him of a helicopter coming to the harbor to transport Viggo away. John races to the harbor and executes Viggo’s remaining henchmen before getting into a fistfight with Viggo on the dock.
Viggo pulls out a knife on John and as they fight, John forces it into in his already wounded abdomen. Startled by this, Viggo releases his hold on the knife. Gaining the upper hand, John takes Viggo’s knife and stabs him on the side of the neck. Viggo, mortally wounded, slumps over and dies. John, wounded but still able-bodied, stops elsewhere to re-watch a video of himself and his wife on his phone. After gaining strength, John ends up at a veterinary clinic where he attempts to treat his wound. He then takes a dog out from one of the cages for a walk on the boardwalk, where he had his last date with Helen.
This is one of the best revenge movies I have ever seen. I have never wanted a bad guy to meet his end more, and I have never wanted the good guy to be the one who delivered the death blow as badly as I did in this one. While I have mocked Keanu’s acting before (See our review of 47 Ronin) This type of role is perfect for him. The ALLSTAR cast doesn’t hurt either. Keanu Reeves redeems himself in this AWESOME 5 star revenge flick. – MR HIGHLY RECOMENDED
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