I was sold just on the synopsis: Keanu Reeves used to be an assassin, but he retired when his wife got unspecified-sad-hospital-bed-itis. Her dying gift to him is an adorable, floppy-eared puppy, which makes Keanu happy. Then someone in a crime syndicate breaks into Keanu’s house and kills the puppy, which makes Keanu mad. Everyone in the crime syndicate talks about how it was a pretty terrible idea to make Keanu mad, seeing as how he was the best assassin in the world and now he’s mad, which is the last thing they talk about before Keanu kills them.
That’s about it. Great story, or the greatest story?
Every step in Keanu’s measured, focused rampage goes down like this: Keanu and another dude do some kick-punching acrobatics and then Keanu shoots the other dude in the goddamn face.
This happens about three hundred times, but it somehow doesn’t get repetitive. Probably because sometimes there are also stabbings. But more probably because the creators of this movie have dedicated themselves to documenting every possible way to dive around and get shot in the head.
They do justice to their life’s work with truly excellent cinematography. This is no shaky-cam close-up vomit fest; the camera glides and emphasizes the movements between characters. Close-ups are for impact, not to mask inept choreography. It reminded me of old Jackie Chan movies, but with people getting shot in the head.
And notice in the clip above how the different floors of the club all have different lighting and sound; it’s so you don’t get lost! It’s easy to follow, even with fifty goons running around and getting murdered. Great stuff.
Need more? As Keanu rampages, we get exposed to a variety of assassins and crime lords played by every awesome character actor in a weirdly specific criminal underworld. There are lots of rules! There’s a hotel where assassins can hang out and not worry about murdering each other! You call someone to clean up bodies like you’re reserving a table at Olive Garden! Everyone pays for everything in gold coins!
Basically, combine the choreography of a classic Jackie Chan flick with the ridiculous plot of Commando with the world-building and gold obsession of Looper with all the guns of a Call of Duty game and you’ve got John Wick. It’s a blast.