It is immensely interesting to me that John Wick is the first film I watched after seeing The Equalizer. The Equalizer is a film that I hated for a being a cliché-riddled action movie with zero originality. John Wick is a cliché-riddled action movie with zero originality, but it embraces those traits with such fervor that it is a joy to watch. The true difference between the films is that The Equalizer was a dour and somber affair with no charisma or style to brighten up the proceedings. John Wick is all style, with flashy camera moves and even flashier action scenes all set to an amazing soundtrack. If you’re going to make a by-the-numbers action movie you’d better make it fun to watch. The Equalizer felt like a chore to sit through and the 40 minute too long runtime didn’t help. John Wick is breezy, ultraviolent, and completely engaging all the way through. It is everything that The Equalizer wasn’t.
John Wick stars Keanu Reeves in what is probably his best performance since the Matrix, but I admit that the bar was set extremely low. Wick is an ex-assassin/mythical legend in the New York underground criminal world who got out of the game when he got married. Now his wife has died of cancer and wouldn’t you know it, some Russian thugs drag Wick back into the scene by beating him up and killing his dog. With all the plot and backstory taken care of in the first five minutes that leaves the rest of the hour and a half runtime for John Wick to revenge kill everyone he sees. And revenge kill he does. With aplomb.
The wonderful thing about John Wick is that it sets up a criminal underworld that has distinct rules which all of the characters know. You can kill someone in this place, but not in that place. A particular form of currency is passed around as payment that doubles as a form of identification. Everyone knows everyone else and even when rival assassins are smashing each other up they are on a first name basis. All of these things are established in ways that make sense for the story. There is no long scene of exposition that spells everything out for the audience. This is a dumb action film that trusts its audience to be smarter than the material, and I love it for that. There is very little else to say about this film. John Wick is easily one of the better American action films I’ve seen in a long time and if you’re a fan of guns blazing, blood flying, revenge romps you’ll love it too. Grade: B+