The Russians are always the bad guys in Hollywood movies. During the Cold War they were unsmiling Commies. Now they are ruthless mobsters operating out of NYC (and other major American cities.)
In this case the spoiled young son (Alfie Allan, TV’s Game of Thrones) of an unsmiling ruthless mobster named Viggo Tsarov (Michael Nyquist, who portrayed Mikael Blomkvist in the original Swedish version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) has killed a dog given to John Wick (Keanu Reeves) by his late wife (Bridget Moynihan of TV’s Blue Bloods, glimpsed briefly in flashbacks) and stolen his vintage ’69 Mustang.
“He once was an associate of ours,” Tsarov explains to his son in a sinister Russian accent (Russian accents are always sinister.) “They call him Baba Yaga.” (Seriously?)
”He was the one we sent to kill the (bleep) boogeyman …. I once saw him kill three men in a bar with a pencil” (Honestly, I don’t make up this dialogue.)
Viggo rings up his former associate. (They still use land lines in this movie): “Let us not resort to our baser instincts. Let us handle this like civilized men.”
John doesn’t say a word. He listens and hangs up.
“What did he say?” asks his right hand man (Dean Winters, you may remember him from hard-bitten TV shows like Oz and Law and Order:SVU)
“Enough” says the mob boss grimly.
And it’s on.
“What happened, John? We were professionals. Civilized,” asks Viggo during a fight scene.
“Do I look civilized to you?” Wick replies as the rain continues to pour down. (It’s that kind of movie.)
The body count is only slightly lower than a World War II movie ( Fury, for example.)
But then John doesn’t have to worry. He knows a body disposal expert. an underground doctor and the neighbourhood patrolman on a first name basis
“You workin’ again?” asks a cop, noting a body in the hallway of John’s house.
“No, just sortin’ some stuff out,” Wick replies.
“Good night, John.”
“Good night, Jimmy.”
The cast includes Willem Dafoe as Marcus, a fellow hit man and close personal friend of John Wick;
Adrienne Palicki (TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as a shapely assassin who tries to pick up a four million dollar bounty Viggo has placed on Wick’s hide and a weathered-looking Ian McShane (TV’s Deadwood ), as Jonathan the proprietor of an underground club catering to the criminal classes. “You know the rules. No business can be conducted on these premises,” Jonathan tells Wick, “lest incurring heavy penalties.”
Viewers are meant to get the impression John Wick was a respected and feared contract killer before his retirement. But in case there is any doubt Mr. Reeves shows off some fancy moves in the role, no doubt picked up partly from flicks like 47 Ronin and Man of Tai Chi (which he directed) and partly from veteran stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. Stahelski is credited with the direction. Leitch is uncredited but listed on The Internet Database anyway. (When in doubt, check imdb.)
What an inspired idea! Getting stuntmen to direct an action movie!
Reeves radiates a cool authority in the role, the film has even gotten good reviews (83% critical approval on Rotten Tomatoes -if still in doubt check RT) and with $78 million in world wide box office (figures courtesy of boxofficemojo.com – there’s never any doubt in Hollywood when it comes to the bottom line ) it is not surprising they are already talking about a follow-up.
Sure, I enjoyed the movie. But then I am an action flick fan. (I was also entertained by 47 Ronin – which received a 14% critical rating on RT).
My opinion on this pic could best be summed up by Jim Lane of the lowly Sacramento News & Review:
“The mordant humor of Derek Kolstad’s script quickly dries up, the movie starts taking itself seriously, and the pleasure gives way to the guilt.”
P.S. The flick was produced by (among others) Eva Longoria. With movies like The Baytown Outlaws and Over Her Dead Body on her resume it is probably a smart move to get behind the camera more often.