John Wick has lost basically everything in a matter of days. His wife has died from some sort of illness (From what we see, it could have been an aneurysm). On top of that, some Russian thugs who wanted his prized 1969 Mustang broke into his house, beat him over the head with a bat, killed the dog his wife gave him as a final gift, stole said Mustang, and for good measure, stuck the bat through the windshield of what could only be his wife's car. He is a desperate man, as these thugs find out to their cost, for John Wick is not a nobody. He has a ruthless, violent past from which he retired four years previously and to which, yeah, he's now returned.
John Wick, whose name really should be spoken in its entirety, is a played by Keanu Reeves, a veteran of the stony-faced-man-we-rally-behind roles and the perfect person to play this one. Reeves is magnetic in everything John Wick does here, from the choreography of the brutal fights as directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski (The man's firearm is more or less a sword or lightsaber--an extension of his arm that no requires no real need to be aimed) to the moments of dramatic clarity that dictate his business, which is personal, to even moments of humor, such as one in which he must reload quickly while his current target is disoriented or answer the door when a policeman comes calling about a noise complaint.
Then there is the plot surrounding John Wick. The Russian thugs with whom he crosses paths are a pretty dumb bunch, headed by the jokey, too-polite Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). His son Iosef (Alfie Allen) is maybe a shade more threatening, but it's no surprise that John Wick dispatches them easily. The first sequence to showcase John Wick's particular set of skills is a thrilling one--set in his house and resplendent with complex camera movements that follow the action cleanly (no shaky-cam, thank the cinema gods). Another couple of sequences, set in a nightclub and the villains' major headquarters, are also superbly crafted.
Otherwise, this is pretty minor stuff. John Wick has a few allies, played by the likes of Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, and a completely wasted John Leguizamo, but none of them goes beyond one dimension. Dean Winters, recently most famous for playing the role of Mayhem in commercials for All State Insurance, has a fun appearance as one of Viggo's major cronies. And the emotional core of John Wick's plight is enough to ingratiate us to the character, though the contrivances screenwriter Derek Kolstad uses to get us from scene to scene are occasionally gaping in their circumference. "John Wick" is an efficient, decently fun time for a Friday-night matinee, but one will probably wish it had a bit more meat on the skeleton of an even better action/thriller that does more than offer an excuse to see Reeves wield a gun as deftly as a blade.
Keanu Reeves (John Wick), Michael Nyqvist (Viggo Tarasov), Alfie Allen (Iosef Tarasov), Willem Dafoe (Marcus), Dean Winters (Avi), Adrianne Palicki (Ms. Perkins), Omer Barnea (Gregori), Toby Leonard Moore (Victor), Ian McShane (Winston), John Leguizamo (Aureilo), Lance Reddick (Hotel Manager), Bridget Moynahan (Helen).
Directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski and written by Derek Kolstad.
Rated R (bloody violence throughout, language, brief drug use).