John Wick - Movie Review

Keanu Reeves turns 50 this year.  With age comes wisdom, I’m told.  Perhaps that is why his portrayal as the super lethal John Wick, a former hitman fresh out of retirement, is such a crowd-pleasing good time.  Wait?  What did I just type?  A familiar story that been told a million times before with an actor who has a spotty career as a leading man is actually entertaining and earns a solid 5 out of 5?  What cosmic alignment just happened here?  The name is Wick, John Wick and you WILL want to see him in action.

Directed by Chad Stahelski (Reeves’ former stunt double from The Matrix), John Wick is one hell of a cool example of just how solid the B-movie format (and genre) can be when it is effectively written, directed, and choreographed.  There is no needless filler.  We learn exactly what we need to know about Wick (which isn’t a lot) to get us cheering on his side as he beats the hell out of the group of nasty hooligans that robbed him and killed his puppy - a gift from his recently deceased wife (Bridget Moynahan). 

Along the way to his much-needed justice, he learns that his targets are related to his former employer, crime boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist).  This time the bloodbath becomes personal.  Screenwriter Derek Kolstad should be praised for his bone-crushing story that gets absolutely everything right.  We have a solid motive for revenge.  And we have that delivery in a clean and crisp style.  There are no gimmicks.  There are no hiccups as the quick-tempered Wick immobilizes villain after villain with strength and grace. 

Stahelski, who also stepped in to fill Brandon Lee’s shoes during the filming of The Crow, has put together a film where you can actually see and appreciate the action scenes and the choreography that goes into them.  The camera doesn’t do anything fancy.  It remains “static” as Wick traverses a hostile terrain.  There are no frenetic cuts; no hyper-stylized moments; and no shaky cam to knock audiences senseless with.  John Wick is old school to its core and this guy thunderously applauds it.

There’s no emotional trolling running through John Wick either.  Of course, if you are partial to Wick’s prized 1969 Boss Mustang (or puppies) then you might shed a tear or understand his greasy-haired rage.  Reeves, who has never been the best of actors, tears through this material with the needed gusto and fun to sell the overall idea of Wick’s steely-eyed delivery of justice.  In fact, the film needs his star power and feeds off of it. 

Of course, the soggy generics are there in the B-movie but they are all embraced without apology.  We know that Wick will bring down the criminals.  It’s the way he does it that makes John Wick rise above the rest of the revenge tales.  Think Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher and you will understand why this one works.  Stahelski and cinematographer Jonathan Sela work like pros not to deliver the studio-approved sheen of your typical revenge flick.  Instead, they harness the neon-slick locales found within a Nicolas Winding Refn film. 

With John Wick, retribution has a new name. 

5 stars



John Wick - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
101 mins
: David Leitch, Chad Stahelski
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen
: Action | Thriller
Don't Set Him Off!
Memorable Movie Quote: "I lost everything. That dog was a final gift from my dying wife."
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 24, 2014
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 3, 2015
Synopsis: An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him. With New York City as his bullet-riddled playground, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a fresh and stylized take on the "assassin genre."


John Wick - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - February 3, 2015
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
: English, English SDH, Spanish
English: Dolby Atmos; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps); English: Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 kbps)
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); UV digital copy; iTunes digital copy; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Locked to region A

The blu-ray release from LionsGate presents an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1.  The image is crystal clear with sharp, pinpoint details and no major technical flaws.  The cinematography is often bathed in blue or green light so flesh tones are expectedly a little pale but fit in with the rest of the transfer.  Black levels are of a high quality.  The release also features a pounding Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track.  Music is strong and smooth, with a powerfully natural and dominant presence.  Big, heavy effects often rule the day, with gunfight and explosions throughout while the ambient effects are somewhat limited but nevertheless engaging. 



  • An optional commentary track Co-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch shines thanks to their sheer enthusiasm and nonstop discussion on the process of making a physically demanding film.  We also learn that the directors were devoted to delivering a living graphic novel onscreen through carefully selected cameras angles as well as lighting pallets.  They were well aware of bullet counts for weapons to not make fights too outrageous.  The two also gush about Mr. Reeve’s martial arts and combat training as well as his driving skills.  It is a good listen for fans of the movie.

Special Features:

The Blu-ray and Digital HD bonus materials include six exclusive featurettes that take a detailed look at different aspects of the film including the intense stunts, incredible action sequences, the stylized look and locale of the film, establishing the world of John Wick and a discussion with director Chad Stahelski and producer David Leitch on how they made this action film their way.

  • Don’t F*#% With John Wick (15 min)
  • Calling in the Cavalry (12 min)
  • Destiny of a Collective (6 min)
  • Assassin’s Code (5 min)
  • Red Circle (6 min)
  • NYC Noir (6 min)