This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
rockerest’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
It's hard to watch John Wick (2014) in 2020 and not know that the dog dies. Despite it being less than a decade old and kind of the worst spoiler of all time, it seems this one was worth spoiling for everyone. I suppose the trauma of a puppy being murdered has to be balanced against a spoiler, and - in that situation - avoiding the trauma of a puppy being murdered wins out. I get it.
I also didn't think the dog dying was all that affecting. The death is more or less off screen, so your brain fills in the details. My brain chose not to, which I thank it for. So when the scene happened I was just kind of like, "Well okay, the dog is dead now, that's not as sad as everyone made it out to be."
And then the scene cuts to John Wick waking up from where he was knocked out and the puppy had crawled over to lay next to him before it died and I fucking lost it, dude. I'm tearing up right now thinking about it.
There's some more justification later - I guess for monsters who don't think the dog was enough? - about the dog being a symbol of hope after John's loss of his wife. I appreciate the character-building, and it would have been a worse movie without it, but honestly fuck every single one of those Russians just for killing the dog, that was all I needed and I was 100% on board with the slaughterfest. Animals suffering is the best way to get me in the mood for some murderin'.
I'm not sure what the ratio of influence each of the directors (Chad Stahelski, David Leitch) and the writer (Derek Kolstad) had on the shots, but I loved it. I've read that Stahelski and Leitch drew on anime and martial arts movies for the action scenes, and it was perfect. The Hong Kong action movie style of action scene appeals to me so deeply it's hard to explain. It's a big part of why I liked THE MATRIX so much. Gun fu and stringently choreographed fights are exciting, perhaps because they are so unrealistic that I can ignore the fight and focus on the dance. JOHN WICK has these in spades and it was beautiful.
I think the cinematography was pretty good, maybe even excellent. It's tough to balance watching a movie for fun and watching a movie critically, so - because I was having a lot of fun - I didn't really notice too much about this movie.
The sound was... fine? I didn't notice it much.
The writing was quite good. I think for what this movie was, it could have been cheesy as fuck, and it managed to stay above the line where it would have dipped into trope. That's admirable, especially considering Kolstad had very little prior experience (some supremely forgettable Dolph Lundgren movies and another that's only now in pre-production).
The thing I hated the most about this movie was the on-screen subtitles for the Russians.
I hated it.
I hated it so much.
I would have hated it if it was just stylized around their heads or whatever and in regular white text, but they highlighted certain words and made them BIG and YELLOW and I fucking hated it.
Subtitles are totally fine! I love PARASITE maybe more than any other movie I've seen in the last year - at least - and that movie was subtitled the whole way through. Nothing is wrong with subtitles! Whatever the fuck they were doing in John Wick sucked and I do not want to ever see it again. I physically recoiled the first time it happened and I continued to hate it the whole movie.
Overall, I enjoyed this movie, but I didn't find anything about it to be incredible. It's absolutely worth seeing (and I'm not mad I bought it), but - as a new John Wick viewer - I'm more excited to see where the series goes from here.