*** out of ****
John Wick has the kind of throw-away plot you would expect to find in beat 'em up games on the '80s NES like Double Dragon or Bad Dudes, just sillier: Man’s dog gets killed, so he takes out an entire criminal underworld. The protagonist’s impetus is incidental, as long as the end result is a bloody barrage of fistfights, fatalities and stuff blowing up. The style is the substance here, and while John Wick isn’t a genre game changer, it still packs enough killer swag that you won’t walk away unentertained.
John Wick hits most of its targets: the fight scenes are brisk, yet steadily choreographed, spilling blood, bullets and grey matter by the barrel. A final scene where Reeves kills a handful of villains with his car will have the Fast and the Furious team kicking themselves that they didn't come up with this first. Also, the assassins-only hotel is the kind of campy fun you’d expect to find in a deleted scene from Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
What stops John Wick from being truly memorable is its reluctance to go for broke. Fun action flicks laugh along with the audience at their absurdity (Taken 1 & 2, the Fast and Furious sequels, anything with Jason Statham), but John Wick restrains itself, slowing in parts to predictably develop its 140-characters-or-less storyline by piling on clichés when it could be stacking up more bodies. I was hoping this would be the mind-free rollercoaster ride that was 2007’s comically ridiculous Shoot ‘Em Up, or 2011's very-Nick Cage Drive Angry 3-D. John Wick, occassionally, wants to be taken seriously...if only somewhat. Fortunately, the film still has many laughs - some intentional - and the actors all seem to be in on the joke.
John Wick is the action film we deserved this past summer. Though not perfect, it is still wicked fun. Give it a shot.