DVD review – John Wick

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Stars: Keanu Reeves, Alfie Allen, Michael Nyqvist
Director: Chad Stahelski
Certificate: 15 (strong violence throughout)
Running Time: 101 mins
Release Date: out now on DVD and Blu-ray

When, oh when, will movie bad guys learn that killing dogs never leads to good things? Dog ownership is pretty much Hollywood’s universal signal for telling you who the good guys are, and those who look to cause them harm are almost without exception villains, scoundrels or robots from the future encased in human flesh to whom nothing good will come

So when Russian gangster Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) extinguishes an adorable pooch in the opening minutes of John Wick, his fate is pretty much sealed. We know that he will get his comeuppance before the end of the film, and it’s implicitly understood that he will deserve every bit of it. No fate is too grisly for him, with the possible exception of the fate Allen suffered in Game of Thrones, that went a bit far. And it just so happens that the owner of said dog is John Wick (Keanu Reeves) – a legendary retired assassin, and one of the most reliable deliverers of comeuppances that cinema has ever seen

So begins 100 minutes of almost relentless violence. Henchmen in their dozens are shot, stabbed or otherwise broken as Wick blazes a bloody trail across the New York nighttime. It sounds like every other one-man-army action film you could possibly name, but it felt different somehow, and it took me about 20 minutes to put my finger on exactly why. After growing dispiritingly used to the fast-cutting, camera-shaking directorial styles of Olivier Megaton et al, John Wick was the first film in ages where I could actually see what was going on. Director Chad Stahelski takes the delightfully old school approach of pointing a camera at things that are happening and keeping it pointed there while said things continue to happen, meaning that you actually see things like punches connecting – a genuinely rare sight in an era of sanitised, 12A-friendly action

It’s a style that makes Wick more reminiscent of Hong Kong than Hollywood, and an infinitely easier watch than the likes of the headache-inducing Taken 3. It’s amazing that something so basic makes such a huge, positive difference, but it also exposes some of the film’s bigger flaws. Because we can see exactly what’s going on, we can see exactly how terrible every character’s aim is – Wick goes from deadeyed marksman to drywall-bothering scattershot as the plot demands it – and there seem to be a number of occasions where Wick sneaks up on a clueless bad guy by basically crouching directly in front of them. The standard of the action choreography never quite matches up to the quality of the camerawork, and occasionally the chasm is so wide that the whole enterprise looks a bit silly

John Wick is, therefore, best enjoyed if you go into it accepting it for what it is – a bit silly. The entire cast spends the whole movie putting on very serious expressions, and what humour there is is born of mild absurdity rather than the one-liners you’d expect of what is essentially Commando for the 21st century. It’s a film that’s great to watch, but you’ll almost certainly shrug, shake your head and forget all about it the moment it’s over

Our Verdict: 6/10


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