I got to see this at a preview screening, it comes out this week, and I just wanted to say GO SEE IT. It's absolutely worth the subprime mortgage you have to take out to afford a movie ticket, popcorn, and a drink these days. I think it has the best action this year, and it's probably the action movie of the year (all due respect to Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
First act, best I've seen in years--great, economical storytelling. It takes some well-worn tropes, lets them breathe, but plays through them at a good clip to get to the good stuff. Introduces all the players, makes you care about the good ones, makes you want to see the bad ones hit by a truck.
Like I said, the action is wonderful. No quick-cutting. No shakycam. The way I've been told, the directors were some stunt guys on The Matrix movies who Good Guy Keanu Reeves befriended and, when they got it in their ear to make a movie, he said "hell yeah, sign me up." It pays off wonderfully. Reeves is great here. I know he has a limited range, but John Wick is right in his wheelhouse--sorrowful, serene, wryly humorous, and with a Santy Claus bag of deftly executed badass moments.
It's R-rated, too, the way an action movie should be, with people dropping F-bombs and getting Gutterson'd left and right. Wick's favorite move is to give an enemy mook two shots in the chest to disable them (usually so he can then waste someone else), then finish them off with a headshot in case they're wearing armor. There's a pink mist on-screen every five minutes. Sensational. Great variety of action too. We get stealth missions, fistfights, wrestling matches, gun battles, car chases, everything but giant robots, really. This baby's pretty much the greatest Punisher movie never made (forward to Marvel: Hire this movie's writer and directors RIGHT NOW. If you don't want to make a Punisher movie, make a Black Widow movie with headshots.)
I also really like the movie's sense of humor. It's not tongue-in-cheek or openly jokey, like a Marvel movie--John Wick takes itself seriously. But whereas some recent revenge movies like The Equalizer and A Walk Among The Tombstones kinda shoved your face in the grim grittiness--rape and prostitution and women being hacked up into little pieces--John Wick instead gives you a wink like "hey, you're here to have a good time, we're here to entertain you. You bought a ticket to see Keanu Reeves as a hitman with a heart of gold, going after villains so bad they literally kick a dog. We're going to deliver." The audience I was with ate it up. Big laughs for lines as simple as a wonderfully timed "...oh." Again, not a comedy, but some great, dark humor to lighten the mood and release some tension.
I also rather like John Wick as a character. He doesn't wallow in man-pain or swagger around like a prick, which I think is the direction a different actor would've taken it. A lot of the times, he gives people the Doctorish option to walk away because, hey, his fight's not with them. Sometimes they take it. Other times...
"Alright," I hear you say, "that's all well and good, but what about your future wife, Bridget Regan?" Well, she's playing a small role, the bartender at a bar for assassins where John goes for information. Ian McShane also hangs out there (with some other great cameos as underworld figures) for about the small amount of screentime, which I take as the movie's way of saying that Kahlan Amnell is just as badass as Al Swearengen. After all, I never saw Al take out a shadrin. Not one!
Also, I love the movie's conceit of (to borrow a phrase from Leverage) Crime World. This isn't an origin story. We start the movie with John Wick being who he is and doing what he does, and the movie makes a great running gag out of just how well-known his badassery is. It's a very pulpy, Tarantinoesque world where there are hotels that cater to international hitmen, underground bars where you can get a drink so long as you leave your blood feuds outside, and Willem Dafoe mentor figures. Everyone knows everyone--it's a bit like a harder-edged Fast And The Furious. I wouldn't mind a return to this world where you can go to Lance Reddick for a safehouse, Randull Duk Kim for lead poisoning treatment, or Bridget Regan for a stiff drink.
If I have one complaint, it's that the movie brings on Adrianne Palicki as Ms. Perkins, one of the assassins gunning for John. She's great in the role--a villainess who has no interest in seduction or looking sexy because she'd rather ventilate her target with a MP5 or snap his neck with some MMA moves. The character sticks around long enough to make herself really hateable, so you're looking forward to a final winner-takes-all with John Wick, but it never really materializes. My dad, who saw it with me, thought her final fate was a clever touch, so I don't know, decision's not unanimous.
But anyway, great movie, comes out this Friday, please do check it out and support R-rated movies, original films, cleanly-shot action, and Good Guy Keanu Reeves.