Movie Review: John Wick (Stahelski, 2014)

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Movie: John Wick

Production Companies: Summit Entertainment, Thunder Road Pictures, 87Eleven Productions, MJW Films, DefyNite Films, Company Films

Director: Chad Stahelski 

Producers: Basil Iwanyk, David Leitch, Eva Longeria, Michael Witherell

Scriptwriter: Derek Kelstad

Main Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Ian McShane

Release Date: 24th October 2014 (US)

Running Time: 101 minutes

Certificate: 15


So guess who’s back? Obviously it’s John Wick as Keanu Reeves with the announcement at San Diego Comic Con about John Wick 4. So in anticipation of the fourth entry in the John Wick series, why not look back at the film which started the series in 2014? Arguably one of the greatest examples of a sleeper hit film, John Wick took audiences and critics by surprise when it first dropped in cinemas back in 2014. How successful was this? Obviously it was a massive hit given the fact it’s spawned 3 sequels and has proved Keanu Reeves can follow up a good action film with a good sequel. So, let’s get into the review of the film.


John Wick follows the titular John Wick (Reeves), a retired assassin and now husband to Helen (Moynahan). However when the son of a wealthy crime family breaks into Wick’s house, steals his car and most unforgivably kills his dog, John is forced back into the shadowy world of assassins. His quest for revenge against the son of Viggo Tarasov (Nyqvist), Iosef (Allen), sees him slowly striking fear into the criminal underworld. Why does he do this? Well in the words of the late great Michael Nyqvist ‘John was the man you sent to kill the f***king Boogeyman’. John Wick was widely praised for its neo-noir style, great fight scenes and for the fluidity of its cinematography. In other words, it feels like a stylised take on a western complete with the idea of the old gunslinger coming back for revenge. So, now let’s get into the analysis portion of the review.


The Soundtrack in John Wick

To start off my analysis of John Wick, I’m not going to discuss the most obvious thing in the film: the soundtrack. Particularly the sinister feel that the soundtrack creates. The best example of this in the film? When Viggo Tarasov is introducing John’s past deeds as an assassin to his seemingly clueless son, Iosef. Here the soundtrack starts off with a slowed down blues guitar, not too dissimilar to a western. This creates the theme of the old gunslinger being forced back into the world of violence that he tried to leave behind.

Another effect of the soundtrack in this scene is it creates a sinister aura for Wick. This just reinforces the terror that criminals feel when they hear the name John Wick. Also, it enables the audience to know why Viggo punches his son repeatedly and looks horrified when he realises his son wronged John Wick. All round it’s an integral part of helping the audience enter the world of John Wick. Very good job from Tyler Bates…..

Keanu Reeves’s Performance in John Wick 

Continuing my analysis of John Wick, I’m going to discuss the elephant in the room: Keanu Reeves’s performance as John Wick. So what makes this performance so good? Well, the anger and grief which Reeves injects into the character. Simply put, the scene where Wick holds his dead puppy in his arms is truly heartbreaking. Not only does this create a massively emotional moment, reinforced by the soundtrack.

Also, the fact the dog was the last gift for John from his now dead wife makes this scene even more devastating. Goddamn, did this scene need to be so depressing to watch? But what makes this scene even better is the aftermath. We don’t see John screaming in anger, we see him being driven by anger. This just helps the audience understand John’s motive: he doesn’t want money, he just wants justice for him being wronged. Kind of like the old gunslinger. Weird how everything ties up….

Fight Scenes in John Wick 

Concluding my analysis of John Wick, I’m going to talk about the other massive elephant in the room: the fight scenes. Now when you combine Chad Stahelski and David Leitch working on a film together, you can be very much sure that the fight scenes are going to be good. So what are some examples of these good fight scenes? One, how about the fight scene in John’s home? Now, there’s a very common trend in modern action films of using shaky cam. Not so in John Wick.

In the fight in John’s home, the camera remains very much still with the occasional pan. What is the effect of this? Well it shows the audience how methodical Wick is when it comes to assassinations and killings. Hence this also reinforces the fear that the audience feel, not for John but for his opponents. Another advantage of a steadier camera allows the audience to work out where the would-be assassins are in relation to Wick. This in turn creates a much more well paced fight scene as the audience gets a chance to absorb the violent efficiency Wick uses against his opponents. Oh and the fight scene in the night club is really good as well…..


To summarise John Wick, this is a very well made, violent, neo noir take on classic western and revenge films. Obviously it goes without saying the cast really pull their weight, especially Reeves, Nyqvist and Allen. Honestly I don’t think I’ve rooted for a villain to get his comeuppance as much as Iosef Tarasov so that’s a sign of a very good performance by Allen. 

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good

Target Audience: 15+

Content Warning: Severe Violence and Gore, Severe Profanity, Mild Alcohol and Drugs References, Moderate Frightening and Intense Scenes 

Recommendation: Yes