Every year, big budget action movies come and go by the dozen, and only a precious few deserve to be remembered. “John Wick” is not one of these precious few. It will almost certainly be forgotten among the dredges of action movie history, at least until Hollywood decides to give it a sequel.

John Wick

Quality 16 and Rave
Summit Enertainment

John Wick (Keanu Reaves, “The Matrix”) is an ex-assassin who just wants to grieve in peace after an illness takes his wife. Then the son of a Russian crime boss steals his car and kills his dog, who was a final gift from his late wife. This spurs John Wick into a killing rampage as he tears apart the Russian crime organization in his search for vengeance.

Audience members will probably question the strength of this motivation. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the writers just had them kill his wife? Sure, killing his dog was a dick move, but does it really seem like a good reason to murder 50 people? It’s problematic because the film obviously wants viewers to see John Wick as the victim, only lashing out in retaliation. However, his massive body count makes the scales seem a little uneven.

John Wick mows through faceless Russian gangsters like they’re blades of grass on his lawn. He uses guns, but almost always at close range. It looks like kung fu infused with bullets and feels exciting because he’s always running forward to shoot people in the head from an inch away. That said, there’s nothing here that elevates “John Wick” above the masses.

John Wick himself suffers from the oldest action movie cliché; he has absolutely no depth to his character. His only emotional attachments get taken from him 15 minutes in, and from there it’s just revenge, revenge, mindless revenge. Willem Dafoe’s (“The Boondock Saints”) character, an old friend from Wick’s hitman days who accepts a contract on Wick’s life, offers a glimmer of hope for some internal conflict. Then his character plays out in the most predictable manner possible.

The only really intriguing thing about “John Wick” is the world it creates. Shady underworld characters exchange gold coins as their main currency. An old man runs a business cleaning up after contract killers. A secretive hotel called the Continental caters to assassins with 24-hour medical service and a strict neutral ground policy. Unfortunately, these tasty side dishes fail to make up for a bland entrée.

Viewers who enjoy action will love “John Wick.” The relentless rush of stylized action never allows the audience a moment to breathe. However, the thin story and thinner characters should deter anyone looking for a semblance of substance. In the end, John Wick comes off as just another guy who really likes killing people and is really good at it.

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