Image via Lionsgate

John Wick: The ASPCA Angel

In anticipation of this weekend’s John Wick 3: Parabellum, we’re taking a look at the first film in the action franchise.

John Wick is weird; there’s extremely little to the story itself, minimal character development in terms of an arc, it almost entirely relies on spectacle…and yet, it works. The most intriguing aspect of the film is how it simultaneously is world building while establishing John’s place within that world. If you asked someone what John Wick is about, and they replied, “Keanu Reeves kills a bunch of people after they kill his dog and steal his car,” …they wouldn’t be wrong. It’s honestly a pretty succinct way of describing the film. However, it’s also kind of like describing Jaws as a movie where a giant shark eats a bunch of people – accurate, but not precise. It doesn’t explain the atmosphere or world and why it is important.

In a strange way, John Wick is its own monster movie and we just get to watch it from the perspective of the monster. Keanu’s stoic performance creates the mask he wears to hunt down his prey as the world builds into his legend and lore. Anyone who has a brief knowledge of him alludes to him as an unstoppable killing machine relentless in his pursuit – and now he’s mad. Imagine if Brody killed Bruce the shark and then Bruce’s Uncle Megalodon got pissed…and Brody is 100 miles out at sea…on a boat with a waterlogged engine…and no food.

Going back to the world around John, the framework for the crime syndicate leaves me wanting more. I want to know why everyone is so fond of John considering he seems to keep to himself and only talk when necessary. I want to know more about Ian McShane’s character and The Continental/it’s organization. How powerful are they? How far does their reach go? Why is Ian McShane in charge? How do you join? Does any of that matter? Not in the slightest. We are just here to watch John Wick avenge a dog murder.

Image via Lionsgate

You know those memes where it’s like, “This jacked dude slaps your gf, what do you do?” That’s kind of the perspective of the antagonist of this movie. John Wick is alluded to being a man you do not want to mess with. A harbinger of death itself, capable of killing a man with the most ease that can be presented, relentless in his pursuit, and more capable then a small army. Imagine your surprise when your dickless wonder of a son comes home and says he killed John’s dog and stole his car…

In what can only be described as a horror movie re-engineered from the perspective of the monster, John Wick is non-stop action and fun. While the vagueness of both the world and the character might be a turn off in other films, this film utilizes them to create a mask of mystery for our monster to wear as he slaughters his way through seas of mobsters. This also adds intrigue into the dynamics of this world. None of the inherent questions concerning the crime syndicate matter to the film, but I’d love to learn more as the movies go on.

The action in this movie is sublime. The passion for the action is viable as every move is choreographed with such precision and care. In a way, it’s reminiscent of foreign martial arts movies in that there is a mastery of their craft and using a ton of quick cuts and shaky cam effects would blur and distort true appreciation from the audience to see it. It’s a dance of death and we are invited to watch and admire the passion of this terrible tango of torsos being tossed like rag dolls.

The movie doesn’t spend a lot of time diluting itself with exposition or character development, which is the most interesting Catch-22. By not spending time on the characters, we don’t really get that attached to them, but it does give us more time to see them do cool things. However, when things happen to those characters, we aren’t as connected to them as we could be. For instance, if John is in danger, we only care because he really likes dogs and the bad guys are defending a dog killer. Given how our country seems to care more about dogs then some people, this may be enough motivation for some…The tea is hot…

This movie did an excellent job of introducing the world and providing a smorgasbord of  entertaining spectacle. The Poetics state that of all the elements that compose a great play, spectacle is the least. However, if the artistry of that spectacle is top notch, as it is in John Wick, I think you’ll see an exception to that rule.

Rating: 4/5

John Wick is currently available on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital formats. Be sure to check back with us tomorrow when we dive into John Wick: Chapter 2, and don’t forget to catch John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum in theaters this weekend.

Image via Lionsgate

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