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John Wick Blu-ray Review

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John Wick has produced another epic action hero

by Simon Crust May 11, 2015

  • John Wick Film Review

    Bloody revenge has seldom been so cool

    John Wick is a family man who has lost the love of his life; he is grieving, he is hurt and he is adrift. A final parting gift is a puppy sent to him by his dying wife so that he does not have to be alone. But when a trio of Russian hoods (are there any other kind nowadays?) take even that from him, John Wick turns to his dark side – a side hidden for (an unspecified number of) years and returns to his previous life. In that life John Wick was another man - an unstoppable assassin; one revered and feared throughout the underworld; John Wick is "Baba Yaga" – The Boogieman – and all he wants is revenge and nothing will stop his vengeance.
    A simple tale and one that has been the plot line for more films that you can count; so what makes this one different? Perhaps it’s the reuniting of so many of The Matrix cast and crew, perhaps it’s Keanu Reeves returning to form, perhaps its fresh new directors who bring their stunt experience to the fore, perhaps it’s the cinematographers ‘graphic novel’ approach to framing, perhaps it’s the biting, stripped to the bone script. In truth it’s all of these things; a lightning-in-a-bottle moment that reaps dividends in the action stakes. John Wick wears its influences proudly on its sleeve and in John Wick has produced another epic action hero.

    Blu-ray Picture Quality

    John Wick Blu-ray Picture Quality
    The disc presents a theatrically correct 2.35:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is locked to Region B.

    Shot digitally the director’s chose to use both spherical and anamorphic lenses for their shoot and this shows up in various scenes as softness to the image, particularly towards the edge when using the anamorphic lenses. This is not a fault with the transfer but an artefact of the film making process.

    Detail is excellent throughout the picture, from close ups to distance shots (not that there are that many, though city vistas, and overhead camera shots look great). Skin has good texture, Reeves’ beard is stark against his chiselled face, while clothing has discernible weave. Sets look suitably lived in and there are some nice 3D pop moments. Crowd scenes, particularly those in the Red Circle manage to feel both claustrophobic and heightened with the detail on various patrons making a strong impression.

    Fluorescent colours beam from the screen

    Colouring is both vivid and muted depending on which ‘world’ you are in; Wick’s ‘real’ world is far more earthy in nature, while the ‘assassin’ world is far, far more wild and ‘graphic novel’ in appearance – it is here where the picture really comes alive. Again pointing towards the Red Circle nightclub where the primaries come alive and fluorescent, colours beam from the screen. There is never any hint of wash or bleed, though look carefully and you can spot the occasional bout of banding. Flesh tones are naturalistic within the confines of the bold colour scheme.

    Contrast and brightness are set to give punch and depth to the picture, blacks are deep and, at times, impenetrable, though there is some shadow detail when required. It is the black level that adds so much to the colour pallet. The directors point to some black crush during their commentary and how it enhances the DVD, all I can say is I did not spot any on this Blu-ray presentation, similarly there is no white clipping.

    Digitally there are no compression problems or edge enhancement and save some very occasional banding no other issues. Being digital it is a pristine print also. Excellent stuff.

    Blu-ray Sound Quality

    John Wick Blu-ray Sound Quality
    The Blu-ray release of John Wick comes with a single Dolby Atmos soundtrack and the disc has English and Dutch subtitles, both of which can be removed.

    Simon Crust reviewed the audio on the Dutch disc using a standard 5.1-channel setup - Three words: stunning surround environment. The steering of the stereo effects around the room is incredible, there are times when the sound travels above you when moving from front to rear (and back!). and being an action film there are plenty of opportunities to add effects that place you in the centre of the action: gun shots, punches/kicks explosions are just some. Dialogue is well layered into the mix so as to remain audible throughout the mayhem happening on screen, it is natural sounding and given all the direction it needs. The score too makes full use of the surround. Bass level is excellent, gun shots and explosions benefit from some chest thumping while the whole track is levelled to keep the neighbours awake – and this is just the track to do it.

    Steve Withers reviewed the audio on the US disc using a 7.1.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup - In much the same way as the film itself is a masterclass in action choreography, this Dolby Atmos soundtrack is a shining example of what a more immersive sound design can achieve. All the fantastic audio attributes mentioned by Simon above with regards to the 5.1-channel experience are equally as applicable in Atmos but with a whole new level added. Almost as soon as the film starts a helicopter flies directly overhead and then there's a rain soaked funeral with raindrops falling down from above you. Once the action kicks off the the entire sound field springs to life with gunshots echoing around the room and zinging past your head. The object-based approach to the sound mix means that effects are steered around in three dimensional space, whether that's in front, to the side, at the rear or above you.

    In terms of ambience the addition of overhead channels gives environments a far more realistic presence and sounds often come from where they are in the film. So for example, in the shoot-out in the nightclub the music is coming from the speakers above, just as they are in the actual environment. In another scene two characters are talking underneath an elevated railway and you can hear the trains rumbling along overhead. However despite the complex nature of the sound design itself, dialogue always remains clear and focused to the action on screen. The bass is equally effective, integrating into the rest of the mix perfectly and underpinning every gunshot, punch or car crash, giving the action the visceral impact that it needs. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack on the Blu-ray release of John Wick is a reference performance that compliments and enhances your enjoyment of the film itself - absolutely stunning.

    Blu-ray Extras

    John Wick Blu-ray Extras
    All the extras were clearly filmed at one time and have been chopped into the five minute (or so) vignettes listed below, there are even some repeated lines…

    Directors Commentary - Chad Stahelski and David Leitch chat leisurely about the film as seen through their eyes, how good Reeves is at acting and action, how the stunts were choreographed, the filming style, the use of New York as a ‘character’ and many other titbits regarding its making and the involvement of all to make a stunning action film. A pretty good listen from two first timers that clearly know what they wanted to achieve.
    Don’t F*#% with John Wick – At 15 minutes this is the longest feature and hosts interviews with cast and crew and well as showing plenty of background filming interspersed with elements from the finished product - the rest of the features follow this exact same format – this particular one concentrates of Keanu Reeves, his dedication, ability and drive to succeed.
    Calling in the Cavalry – Looks at the directors and their transition through the movie industry.
    Destiny of a Collective – Looks at the stunt team and their art.
    Assassin’s Code – Looks at the style of the film and how ‘Graphic Novely’ it was meant to be.
    Red Circle – Closer examination of the action scene set in the nightclub.
    NYC Noir – Closer look at the locations used.

    John Wick Blu-ray Verdict

    John Wick John Wick Blu-ray Verdict
    John Wick is a very simple film, it can be summed up in one sentence, “Man seeks revenge for injustice”. Indeed that sentence has been the plot line for an uncountable number of films, but where John Wick makes such a mark is with its attitude. At its helm are two ex-stunt choreographers turned film directors and with their background knowledge they stripped an already minimal script into nothing but bones. However with sheer determination and a headline star willing to go the extra 500 miles in Keanu Reeves, their film is total balls to the wall action but with heart.

    The film makes no secrets of its influences (the nightclub name is one clue) and the style it was aiming for – graphic novels – and the cinematographer makes sure to light and frame in such a way that not only does it look like one, but it feels like one too. The action scenes clearly take the cake, but the film also carries with it heart, the actors are good in their roles, you feel for John Wick and his drive, the score pulls you along for the ride and everything comes together to form a terrific whole.

    Balls to the wall action but with heart

    As a Blu-ray set, the package is actually very good, the picture is detailed, well coloured and contains significant blacks, while the Dolby Atmos sound track is utterly absorbing in its surround environment and has bass to shake the foundations. The extras are a little light, all being culled from the same source material, but the directors commentary makes for an interesting listen. Worth the import!

    You can buy John Wick on Blu-ray here

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