I was impressed with the first bit of this movie, which had very little predictable dialog—very little dialog at all. It’s just scenes of Sad Keanu, basically…
John Wick is alone except for his vintage hot rod and a puppy thoughtfully gifted to him by his late wife. So when the entitled, oblivious son of a Russian crime boss takes a fancy to his car, steals it, and kills the puppy, leaving him completely alone, what does he do? Why, he goes back to his life as the best professional assassin ever, letting nothing stand between him and his doomed target. (I mean, you know it’s a revenge plot, right?)
Gone are the days when noir was black and white and grey; here you’ve got grey, sure, but also yellows, reds, blues, and greens. It’s slick and modern and moody. I guess the stylization is a big reason the violence was not unenjoyable. There’s a lot of death, but it’s not a lot of senseless grunting and bloody messes. It feels clever. More than that, it feels just. It’s also got some rather funny deadpan moments that keep it from feeling too heavy.
See below for a plot summary with SPOILERS.
My Plot Summary of John Wick
I couldn’t find where to put the beat sheet plot points, either because they’re not in the usual places, or because it’s been too long since I watched the movie.
John is rather injured. He seems to be dying. He takes out his phone and watches a video of a woman he was with at the beach on a happier day.
John quietly mourns his wife, whom we see in flashbacks, by driving his car out at the airplane hangar and lavishing attention on the puppy she left him. Unfortunately, some guy who speaks Russian and looks an awful lot like that piece of scum Theon Greyjoy wants to buy his car and won’t take no for an answer, not even from someone who speaks Russian for some unknown reason…
The Russian-speaking guy and his friends show up at John’s house, beat him up, kill his puppy, and take his car. Now John has nothing.
The thief learns that the car he stole belonged to a pretty scary dude. In fact, the guy’s father is a crime boss who owes his wealth and power to a series of assassinations performed by none other than John Wick. John smashes the floor of the basement where he has hidden gold and weapons, because presumably he’s going to need them. The crime boss phones John and asks him to forget about his son’s stupid mistake; John never even says anything in reply.
Break into Two
The crime boss sends a team to try to kill John. Unsurprisingly, the team fails. A cop comes to John’s house to see about a noise complaint, but wisely does not interfere. John leaves his house and checks in to a special hotel for assassins.
The crime boss puts a price on John’s head. John’s friend accepts the contract, though other assassins will still be trying to win the bounty, since it is an “open” contract. No one is allowed to attack at the hotel, though, as per house rules.
John tracks his target to a nightclub, but while there, only succeeds in killing a henchman and sustaining multiple injuries himself. He keeps a stiff upper lip, though, and bloody injuries are normal among the guests at the assassins’ hotel.
Back at the hotel, John’s friend shoots at him with his sniper rifle while a female assassin sneaks into his room to try to kill him. The scuffle gives rise to another noise complaint. John subdues his attacker and forces her to give him some information. She escapes and kills the man meant to be watching over her.
Following the woman’s information, John goes to a church where the crime boss keeps treasure and blackmail material. After fighting past the guards, he sets it all on fire.
John gets captured. He explains why the puppy was so important: It gave him hope and an opportunity to grieve. Bereft of that, he feels he has no choice but to return to the life of an assassin.
From a distance, John’s friend shoots the man holding him, and John escapes.
John corners the crime boss and forces him to give up his son’s location. Then John goes to the safehouse and executes the son. But wait, there’s more!
The female assassin reveals that John’s friend has been helping him, not trying to kill him, which, of course, makes sense. The crime boss tortures and kills John’s friend.
The hotel owner executes the female assassin for breaking house rules, tells John the crime boss is going to try to escape by helicopter, and gives John a new car. John drives off to intercept the crime boss.
ACT III / Finale
John manages to kill the crime boss, but gets stabbed pretty seriously. This is where we started the movie.
Luckily, John has collapsed in front of an animal clinic that has medical supplies he can use to treat his wounds. While he’s there, he sees a bunch of dogs in cages and decides to take one with him to replace the one he lost.
Themes in John Wick
The events of the movie show the consequences of a thoughtless action, the killing of an innocent dog. What about the consequences of John’s actions? He didn’t kill dogs, he killed people! Can an assassin ever really leave behind a life of crime, or did the universe punish John for all his kills by taking his wife from him? At the funeral, John’s friend tells him it’s not his fault; in the confrontation in the church, the crime boss tells him it is. Who does John believe? Who do we believe?
Characters in John Wick
I tend to think that in plot summaries, functional descriptions are better for most characters than actual names, but I feel like the names should be on the page somewhere, so here they are:
John Wick – a bereaved husband and former top assassin (played by the inimitable Keanu Reeves)
Helen – John’s dead wife (played by Bridget Moynahan)
Daisy – the puppy his wife gave him
Marcus – John’s assassin friend (played by Willem Dafoe)
Viggo Tarasov – a crime boss (played by Michael Nyqvist, also the villain in Ghost Protocol)
Iosef Tarasov – the son of the crime boss (played by Alfie Allen, who played Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones)
Ms. Perkins – the female assassin (played by Adrianne Palicki, who played Bobbi in Agents of SHIELD)
Charon – hotel concierge (played by Lance Reddick, who played Phillip Broyles in Fringe)
Winston – hotel owner (played by Ian McShane, who voiced Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda and played Coach in Death Race)
Aurelio – garage owner (played by John Leguizamo, who starred in Super Mario Bros and voiced Sid in the Ice Age movies)
Addy – bar girl at the Continental (played by Bridget Regan, who played Kahlan in Legend of the Seeker)
This analysis by CinemaWins on YouTube was enlightening:
Everything great about John Wick!