John Wick is an excellent action film. It takes conventions of the genre such as the revenge and coming out of retirement staples and injects them with emotional weight, gravitas and a commendable sense of history. The titular character (played with a startling earnestness by Keanu Reeves) wants to get revenge on Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) because he stole his car and killed his dog. The latter represented a sense of hope as the canine was the last gift from wife before she passed away.
As Wick returns to his former occupation, the film provides the character with a legendary reputation. Many times throughout the picture, the central antagonist Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) refers to his former colleague as the Baba Yaga (bogeyman). And nearly every person that Wick encounters has a passing familiarity with his occupation and status. In fact, most of the film’s humor derives from some of these meetings.
For example, in the instances when the hotel manager or cleaning crew converse with Wick, they talk to him with a poker-faced, dry digression. The result is the violent acts in the background having a blackly comic edge as they are juxtaposed with the detachment of the professionals that Wick meets. The choreography impresses with its sharpness and brutality. And one action sequence that takes place in a club feels inspired by the silhouette fight in Skyfall and the Tech Noir of James Cameron’s The Terminator.