Film Review: John Wick

by Sam Robinson

Rated MA15+. Starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe. Directed by Chad Stahelski.

Don’t you dare even think about messing with John Wick.

This is the take-home message from the latest mobster action thriller, John Wick. Wick (Reeves) is a seemingly normal man, who has just lost his wife Helen to cancer and is grieving her loss greatly. After her funeral – in which he largely seems to be left alone – he arrives home to find a special delivery on his doorstep, a puppy named Daisy. Daisy is a gift from Wick’s late wife so that he can enjoy the company of a companion as he navigates the painful waters of suffering and loss.

But when a chance meeting with some Russian gang members at a petrol station turns sour, Wick becomes the victim of a middle-of-the-night home invasion where he is bashed, his vintage Mustang is stolen and his precious puppy is beaten and killed.

It’s only at this point that we discover that John Wick is no average Joe. He’s a retired assassin, nicknamed ‘The Boogeyman’, and feared by many. It just so happens that Wick’s attacker is the son of Wick’s former boss, and he can’t believe his son’s stupidity in messing with the Wick. The murder of his puppy is the catalyst that causes John Wick back into his life of killing, motivated of course by revenge. This is as dense as the plot gets.

If you’re not into shoot-em-up action flicks founded in corruption, John Wick will not be the film for you. This is a very violent affair with countless killings, blood spatterings and the goings on you’d expect of a seedy underworld. Reeves plays Wick really well, it’s his best performance in years. Director Stahelski makes us empathise with Wick’s vulnerability at the beginning of the film so we are on-board with his actions that follow. I’m not condoning his decisions by any means, but we feel his pain.

Wick wants revenge for the suffering he has been dealt by the Russian gangsters. We are reminded of this by shots of his wife’s necklace and Daisy’s collar sitting side-by-side. His loss has caused him great grief, and his way of dealing with it is by getting even with those responsible.

I think this is often our world’s attitude when we are hurt by others. Getting even seems to be the answer. But we need to consider if that way of living is actually helpful. The Bible tells us that God is just, and the one who will make everything right. Paul writes in Romans 12:19 –

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, we are to trust that he will indeed make things right. All will give account to him for their actions, including you and I. We are all sinful. We have all rebelled against God and cause him great grief.

But when we trust in Jesus, rather than striking us down with vengeance, he shows us grace and forgives us of our sin. Forgiveness doesn’t even cross Wick’s mind for a second. God is good, forgives us, and tells us that if we follow him that we must forgive our enemies too.

John Wick is an action thriller with more brains than other violent films such as The Equalizer. Although it’s all about Russian gangsters, it’s actually a helpful reflection on the desires of our hearts. I’m giving it three-and-a-half stars.

John Wick is screening now in cinemas in the US and Australia. It will be released in the UK on January 2nd, 2015.

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