DVD: John Wick (2014)

February 12, 2015 | By


JohnWickFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: n/a

Label: eOne / Summit

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  February 2, 2015

Genre:  Action

Synopsis: After killing the puppy left by his freshly dead wife and stealing his rare roadster, an ex-assassin hunts down the culprits with absolutely zero mercy. Many craniums are irreparably damaged.

Special Features:  (none)






Veteran stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski and colleague David Leitch respectively directed and produced this mean-spirited thriller in which a retired assassin literally takes a sledgehammer and cracks open the basement floor to extract his case of guns, ammo, and gold pieces to avenge the death of a puppy bequeathed to him by his just-dead wife.

It’s a crazy hook, but it’s all beautifully delivered in simple early scenes in which Wick has just lost the love of his life – the person for whom he left a life of death and sadism – and gets one day to bond with an utterly adorable baby beagle named Daisy before it’s pummeled to death by a group of Russian car thieves, led by a mob prince (Alfie Allen).

As the father (Europa Report and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Michael Nyqvist) of the not-so-princely thug states to his right-hand man (Oz’s Dean Winters), Wick is a man of supreme focus, and what follows for the rest of the film is total carnage as Wick deals out multiple headshots to pesky mobsters playing defense, working his way towards the scumbag prince before switching to the father, who happens to be an old associate.

Derek Kolstad’s script isn’t new or novel – one could literally turn Wick into a vampire who once chose to lay low, retired from clan activities, and is brought back out of revenge much like the first two Blade films (especially the second) – but it’s Keanu Reeve’s stark portrayal of a professional assassin applying his skills set with maximum force that make Wick compelling and fun. He has nothing to lose – everything he’s cared about is 100% dead – and that makes the slick, calm, analytical figure so affecting. Not unlike hitman Walker in Point Blank (1967), Wick has a simple goal – instead of wanting a promised paycheck, it’s kill the killers – but people just don’t listen, and won’t let him follow through with his reasonable demands: heads on a platter + classic car.

The parallels to modern vampire action-shockers are very obvious: a grand killing spree in a glitzy nightclub owned by the mob / vampire clan where apparently no police will ever venture or enforce justice; a hotel that’s a sanctuary for rival assassins / blood-sucking tribes with strict rules and punishments for miscreants, like free agent / Emma Peel variant Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki); and like Blade, Wick has a mentor (Willem Dafoe), an aging assassin who looks out for him before he too is brutalized by rivals.

The film is similarly dressed with a glossy, neon look, but unlike many vampire and revenge / action films, the stunts are real, the car chases use real vehicles, and Reeve’s combat choreography is covered in coherent edits. These are important points, because director Stahelski and cinematographer Jonathan Sela worked on A Good Day to Die Die Hard (2013), a film with an epic vehicular chase on a Moscow highway directed and edited with moronic incoherence. Clearly Stahelski wanted to showcase the beauty of stunt choreography and practical stunts on film instead of making generic ‘hyper-real’ sequences that would’ve ruined Reeves’ take on a driven, emotionally dead widower, and hacked up all that sleek choreography.

The New York locations are first rate, and the score from Tyler Bates (Get Carter) and Joel J. Richard evokes atmosphere, energy and sadness while delivering kinetic electronic material.

eOne / Summit’s DVD is a full bare bones deal – a maneuver designed to push fans to grabbing the loaded Blu-ray edition – but the transfer is very clean, and the sound mix is nicely balanced with punchy and nuanced effects.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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