Stephen Miller

Startup cofounder, AI researcher, podcaster, person, etc.

Review: John Wick

I think I’ve established by now that I’m not a B-movie guy. If a movie is too “dumb”, I can’t completely get behind it. It doesn’t matter that it was self-consciously dumb; it doesn’t even matter that I had a great time. I can have a great time watching corny reality shows and scrolling through cat GIFs too, but that doesn’t make me want to praise them. Sometimes a movie is just a couple hours of escape, but at its best, it lingers. Adrenaline alone doesn’t stick.

John Wick really puts those convictions to the test. At just over an hour and a half, it’s a lean, well-choreographed killing machine. Someone steals Keanu Reeve’s car and kills his dog. He’s angry, so he’s going to kill a lot of Russians. How many? All of them. Who is he? The guy who just did a backflip over your head, that’s who. Where did he come from? Too late for questions, he already shot you in the face to the rhythm of a thousand Linkin Park power chords. Considering how much world-building potential the film had — with social hierarchies, currencies, and codes of ethics that are hinted at but never explained — it’s clear that being plotless was a stylistic decision, not a necessity. It’s a decision that frees it from all of the groanworthy moments other action flicks feel obligated to squeeze in: theres no night in Gethsemane, no chubby coworker for Denzel to inspire, nothing but bullets and vengeance. That’s a smart trick, which Nicholas Sparks, porn directors, and Mumford and Sons have also learned: drop the difficult stuff and cut to the crescendo. It makes for a pure shot of adrenaline, a return to form for Keanu, and a whole lot of fun in the same way that playing a video game is fun. But it felt a little like cheating.

After technical difficulties made us scrap the entire first recording, Chris, Carson, and I did a much sillier re-review at:

See my review on Letterboxd