So it it Wick-ed? Or did it just get on my Wick? Turns out I can't use either pun. Because, far from being elevated above the likes of Taken, Wanted, Reacher, Bond or The Equaliser (The Matrix of assassin films if you will) John Wick failed to emerge as king of the badasses for this (slightly) disappointed camper.
The plot is thinner than Keanu's smile- but fine. I can live with that if the film delivers on its promise of violent, OTT action. For me though, it didn't. The best action films have a moment that grabs you by the balls, and makes you sit forward in your chair and gets your heart racing. In both Dredd and Captain America The Winter Soldier (my current benchmarks for action films) those moments came early, and they just got better and more intense. I waited and waited for that moment in John Wick but it never seemed to come. Well that's not completely true. The films centerpiece- The Nightclub scene- is the bit that will make you go (in the immortal words of Calvin Candie) "now you have my attention". Its a dizzying, violent, flamboyant and relentless scene and one you'll be skipping to on your bluray disc for years to come. But apart from that, the film has very little up its sleeve. The climax is especially underwhelming- and I hoped they might pull a rabbit out of their hat with an 'Equilibrium' moment (you know the bit I mean). But its all by the numbers.
Part of the problem is that there is zero tension. Its the same thing Lucy was (rightly) cirticised for. The main character is invulnerable. Never in danger. Never worried or scared. He knows hes a badass, the baddies know it too, and we know it (the film makes that clear over and over). Remember the elevator scene in Winter Soldier? That was tense action. Rogers is worried. He senses danger, and has to use every ounce of strength to survive it. So his victory is earned. Wick takes a few hits, but he doesn't ever seem to feel them or even experience fear.
And where was the blood? Considering its reputation, the combat is strangely tame compared to say The Raid, Drive or Taken. It's brutal in places- make no mistake- but its not as blood-soaked as you'd imagine given the amount of headshots being administered. There are no eww moments.
A final point- was Michael Nyqvist's character really a baddie? Think about that. What does he do wrong in the entire film?
On a positive note (yes there's plenty of positives), the world established in John Wick is a cool one and its a place I hope we can revisit. Its a slightly surreal, beautifully lit, nightime underworld centred around the Continental Hotel- a place with its own rules that one breaks at one's peril.
I do think, and sincerely hope, that future viewings with expectations shed will make me appreciate this a whole lot more. I know I want to see Wick and his pooch return to our screens- but I'll be lowering my expectations.