A movie choice made due to a lack of consensus on what to watch.
Keanu Reeves is a former elite assassin who has got of the game because of true love. Dragged brutally back into the world of the professional hitman, he goes on a killing spree.
So the obvious, looming cliche waiting, before you even hit play, is that his wife will die. To their credit, the writers saw this cliche coming and for this one example actually made an effort to avoid it. John Wick’s wife dies still but, aha!, dies of natural causes. He is consumed by grief but what with him being an affectless assassin and also Keanu Reeves, this emotion looks the same as all the others we will see.
But John Wick is still stuck in a cliched plot that depends on him going over the edge and embarking on campaign of violent revenge.
Enter the beagle puppy.
Wick’s terminally ill wife arranged for a beagle puppy to be delivered to him (with a note) for after she died. I have to say, the notion of a posthumous beagle delivery service remains my favourite concept from the film. Not entirely sure how it would work and also forcing a beagle on to somebody without their prior consent seems more like a practical joke than a loving gesture – and quite a dark joke as the puppy (inevitably) is Wick’s last emotional connection to his dead wife. She would have had to arrange the delivery prior to her death and presumably at a point when she was well enough to write but also sick enough to have a reasonable estimate of when she would die. Maybe that is all built into the service? Perhaps the doctors at the hospital trigger the delivery with an email? As we learn nothing about the character of the wife, I’d like to imagine she actually runs a whole puppy delivery business (it also explains the end of the movie).
I’d imagine that when he met her for the first time the conversation went like this:
John Wick: Hi. I may appear emotionless but I have the coolest job in the world.
Love Interest: No you don’t. *I* have the coolest job in the world.
John Wick: I am the world’s most feared assassin. I belong to an elite assassin club, with its own assassin hotel and assassin night club and at the assassin hotel they give you a free car if somebody trashes your room.
Love Interest: I run a beagle puppy delivery service.
John Wick: OK, you win.
I assume everybody has made this joke already.
Enter the obnoxious son of a Russian gangster. This character is unique in the whole movie. EVERYBODY else, (beyond various Russian gangster redshirts) knows exactly who John Wick is. Even the local police officer knows that John Wick is a bad-ass assassin.
Obnoxious gangster boy encounters Wick at a petrol station and tries to buy his car. Rebuffed by Wick (who appears emotionless because a. grief and b. Keanu Reeves), gangster finds where Wick lives – still failing to discover that Wick is the most deadly killer of gangsters ever to the extent that he is known as the ‘boogeyman’ which they also say in Russian (and which sounds like Baba Yaga – and now I want Keanu Reeves to have a house with chicken feet).
The young gangster and his goons break into Wick’s house, beat him up and KILL THE PUPPY. Film then continues exactly as you might imagine it does.
DO not watch this film if you like puppies, characters with an emotional range, plausible plots, films in which Willem Dafoe is well utilized as an actor. Aside from that, nicely shot, occasional dead pan humour suggests that at least somebody gets that the film is ridiculous.