Can you believe that there's a fourth John Wick film coming out?? It's not that surprising when looking at it from a top-down perspective, but the original 2014 film, John Wick was not designed as a franchise-maker. A modest budget of 20 to 30 million dollars for an action film that starred a relatively aged star, made as a sort of indie flick is not exactly situated for such colossal success. However, the film turned out to not only be a box office monster, but also a critically celebrated movie. John Wick grossed over 86 million dollars worldwide and became a quick favorite for many viewers and critics alike for its fight sequences and the reemergence of Keanu Reeves, whose stoicism accents the violent choreography and melancholy of John Wick's life.
The subsequent films are no different in box office success and enjoyment, but with the fourth film coming out March 23rd, today we're going to examine the original, John Wick.
Taking place shortly after John Wick's (Reeves) wife passes away, she posthumously gifts probably the world's cutest puppy to John in order to provide him something to love and care for. Once you're done crying your eyes out for a good minute or two, Wick is propositioned by a young Russian man Iosef (Alfie Allen) to buy his car. Refusing the sale, Iosef and his friends break into Wick's house, steal his car, and kill the aforementioned world's cutest puppy. One thing leads to another and we discover that John Wick is actually the most feared hitman probably in the world, Iosef is Russian crime lord Viggo's (Michael Nyqvist) son, and Wick will stop at nothing to get his vengeance.
As simple and stripped of a plot as this is, it achieves two things better than a good handful of films out there. First, it connects with the ethos of probably every person. The first 15 minutes of the film are masterfully done to achieve this. It's clear that Wick's wife was his whole world, the flashbacks and somber, grieving movements from Wick drill this point deeper. To then introduce an adorable puppy as a posthumous gift, the last thing left of Wick's wife, sinks the empathetic hooks into every viewer. You are so attached to the emotional well-being of Wick and this puppy in mere minutes, its astounding how well done its written, acted by Reeves in such subtle, nonverbal ways, and directed by Chad Stahelski with some crisp use of space and low key framing. The second thing it does with sheer excellence, is execute some incredible action sequences that you're almost drooling for after the attachment of what I previously mentioned. You as a viewer are rooting, hard, for a pretty solid anti-hero and the sequences in which Wick conducts his business in are choreographed unbelievably well that it exceeds your emotional expectation. When Viggo sends men to Wick's house to stop him before he can even begin to hunt down Iosef, the close quarter combat is revelatory. Another one of my favorite sequences is the action packed, neon lit, electronic thumping of the Red Circle shit storm. Gun shots that accent the tempo of already ravaging music and the claustrophobic nature of a nightclub make it perfect edge of your seat action.
These items make the film work extremely well on its own, but how does this all set up four movies? Especially when all of them are building on a story that gets wrapped up neatly with our protagonist walking into the night with a new adorable puppy.
Lucky for us, writer Derek Kolstad put in some fantastic world building elements that if never expanded on would work perfectly fine, but if dug into, could easily create a fascinating underground franchise of hitmen. After Wick disposes of Viggo's men early in the film he makes a phone call asking for dinner for 12, a rather interesting request after littering your house with dead bodies. Then you come to find out that its actually a code for a service for hitmen, where people come to clean up the mess. Casual introductions like this along with the mysterious Continental quietly construct an unseen world that leaves many questions lingering but without detracting from the initial story at play.
Remarkably, all of these factors have played out so well that John Wick has rejuvenated Reeves' career and brought us all along on the wild ride that's been nine years in the making thus far. I'm pretty excited to jump back into the second film for Part 2 of this series because I really loved the first John Wick and its subsequent films are just as enthralling!
The timing on this beer choice was nothing short of serendipitous. Knowing I wanted to do a four piece review of each John Wick film I figured some froth continuity across the four films would be essential. Luckily, Elysian Brewing just so happened to hear my thoughts and release their IPA series variety pack! Holding four of their IPA brews I figured it would be the perfect accompaniment to these films. Not only are these Elysian IPA's packed with flavor, but the strength of their contents serve as a great sidekick to the action packed dances within the films!
To begin I decided on the Hazy '96. A New England Hazy IPA rooted in 90's nostalgia is exactly the kind of beer I needed to accentuate the wonders of Keanu Reeves in John Wick. Reeves' career took off during the 90's with projects such as Point Break, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, Speed, Much Ado About Nothing, and of course The Matrix, so its apropos to celebrate a little nostalgia here and there.
The Hazy '96 is medium bodied brew popping with a solid dose of tropical aromas ranging from your pineapples to your oranges. The Idaho 7 hops used in its brewing lend not only these tropical aromas but also a strong pine and floral flavor that pairs well with the Citra hops, another great contributor of tropical and citrus flavors and aromas.
Overall this is the perfect companion for John Wick, taking sips of the sweet 90's nostalgia and reveling in the new age of Keanu Reeves kicking ass and taking names. What a combination.