Occasionally a movie comes along that’s just so simplistically perfect in what it’s trying to present. Recently it seems there have been two such movies, and John Wick is one of them. Where so many movies try to make everything a deep metaphor or some sort of social commentary on the world at large, John Wick gives us a straight forward tale of revenge, with hints at a deeper world beyond.
I feel like this layered simplicity is what really makes this film work. That and the top notch action choreography. This movie is loaded with shoot outs and guys getting shot and beat up, but it all works extremely well and flows along very well. Everything is intense and tight and fast, but it manages to keep some level of gritty realism as our hero gets injured and tired and remembers to reload his gun from time to time. The centerpiece moment is the fight in the middle of the film in The Red Circle Club, as John Wick, chases his target through a crowded night club battling henchmen all along the way.
But the action isn’t the meat of this film, and neither is it’s revenge based plot, the meat is the rich criminal underworld created as the film moves along. Specifically, the way John Wick never stops to explain anything to us, but still presents everything in a way that’s clear as to how things work. Take the Golden Coins we see several times in the movie. They are simple gold coins, probably valuable in their own right, but they also seem to represent more than just a coin, favors perhaps. A way of trading trust throughout this world of mobsters and assassins where everyone knows everyone else. John has many of them, and spends several of them in clear logical ways that give us the idea of what they are without hand holding the viewer along.
There is also John Wick himself. John is a retired hitman for some powerful criminal organization. We never get to see John Wick in his “glory days”. Instead, we get the feel of just how much of a bad ass John Wick is by the way other characters react to seeing him “back in action”. The way his old boss has nothing more to say than “oh” when learning that his son has pissed of John Wick. The way his colleagues immediately respect him and treat him highly. Through the vague story of what length John went through to retire and get married in the first place. And of course through how determined and skilled John is at dispatching dozens of grunts along the way despite being “retired” for some years.
It’s this little detail that helps keep the action flowing without stopping to get bogged down in the details while simultaneously not leaving tons of “well what the hell does that mean” moments. It’s a fine line that other similar movies often fail at because they are too vague with the details or too talky about it.
The movie itself may not be quite for everyone, mostly because it’s pretty violent, though it’s also violent in a way that’s not overly gory. Another nice point of this film, it would have been easy to get gratuitous with the violence, with constant blood splatters and whatnot, but the film avoids these cheap gimmicks which just helps push that subtle layer of realism that I mentioned earlier.
The bottom line is, this movie is pretty fantastic, especially if you are at all into action movies with excellent fight choreography.