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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: John Wick

February 1st, 2015

John Wick - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

John Wick stars Keanu Reeves in the titular role. Keanu Reeves has earned close to $2 billion domestically, but it has been more than a decade since he starred in a film that earned more than $100 million at the box office. This film couldn't even get halfway to the century mark. Did it deserve to become a hit? Or was it destined to fall between the cracks?

The Movie

The movie begins with a short clip from the ending where John Wick appears to be bleeding to death. We then flash back to the present where John Wich remembers his time with his wife, Helen, who became suddenly ill and died. After his wife's funeral, John received a package, a puppy. It seems his wife ordered it so that John would have something to keep him going after her death. At first, he's not happy about having a puppy, but they both share a love of American muscle cars. While filling up at a gas station, they run into Iosef, who also admires John's car and even offers to buy it. John Wick refuses to even name a price, which gets under Iosef's skin.

As a result, Iosef and his friends find out where John Wick lives, break into his house to steal his car, and kills his puppy in the process. The three of them head to Aurelio's chop shop to get a new VIN number and papers. Aurelio refuses to do business with them and even punches Iosef right in the face. He doesn't tell them why, on the other hand. John Wick gets there later in the day. John knows Aurelio, which is why Aurelio recognized John's car. Aurelio explains who Iosef is. Iosef is Iosef Tarasov, son of Viggo Tarasov. Viggo Tarasov is the leader of the Russian Mafia in the area... and John Wick's old employer.

When Viggo Tarasov finds out Iosef stole John Wick's car and killed his dog, he gets very upset at his son. This is when we learn who John Wick really is. John Wick is one of the most dangerous assassins ever and it was his exploits for Viggo that built his crime family. He knows that John Wick will be coming after his son and there's nothing he can do about it. That doesn't mean he won't try. First he calls John Wick to try and smooth things over. When that doesn't work, he sends a crew of men to take out John Wick. That too doesn't work. So plan C is put out a $2 million hit on John Wick hoping one of the assassins will kill him before John Wick can kill his son, this includes Marcus, John's former mentor.

There's not a lot of plot in John Wick and what plot there is is hardly unique. It is a simple story of some criminal targeting the wrong person and that person getting revenge. Fortunately, the execution is top notch and the filmmakers inject a lot of style, which is needed to overcome the average plot. For instance, the scenes tend to jump between two different characters, sometimes with a bit of back-and-forth with the time element. Hell, even the subtitles are presented with style. The action scenes are very well done and actually make John Wick seem as dangerous as his reputation is. This is a problem in a lot of movies where we hear of a character's reputation, but what we are presented with on screen hardly matches the glowing terms used to describe them. Many of the characters also have an undeniable charisma in a very Film Noir way. Since I'm a huge fan of Film Noir, this was a major asset to me.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD / Blu-ray start with an audio commentary track from the two co-directors, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. There are also six featurettes with a total running time of about 50 minutes. These start off with Don’t F*#% with John Wick, a 15 minute look at the work that went into making the fight scenes. Calling in the Cavalry is a 12-minute making if featurette that looks a lot at the cast. Destiny of a Collective is a 6-minute look the two co-directors and all of the work they've done together. Assassin’s Code looks at the world of the assassins created by this film. Red Circle looks at the major action scene at the nightclub. NYC Noir is a 6 minute look at the setting and how the film used New York City.

The technical presentation is excellent, for the most part. There is not a lot of color in the movie, so the video can't shine in that regard. That said, the level of details is top-notch, while there are plenty of dark scenes and the shadows are inky black. It goes without saying there are no compression issues or digital artifacts to mar the picture. The audio is even better with clear dialogue and a lot of activity in the surround sound speakers. This is especially true in the large number of action scenes.

The Blu-ray Combo Pack costs $20, which is $5 or 33% more than the DVD. This is a good deal, but not a great deal.

The Verdict

John Wick is a stylish and entertaining action film. There are enough extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray Combo Pack that it is easily worth picking up. The Blu-ray is the better deal of the two formats.

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Filed under: Video Review, John Wick, Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Nyqvist, Chad Stahelski, David Leitch, Alfie Allen