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John Wick (Blu-ray) (2014)
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Details At A Glance
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Don't F*#% With John Wick
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Calling in the Cavalry
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Destiny of a Collective
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Assassin's Code
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Red Circle
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-N.Y.C. Noir
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Joel J. Richard
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
††† Letís not mince words here: John Wick is the best action movie of 2014. Confidently belying its modest budget, the movie easily surpasses that yearís CGI-infested blockbusters and superhero offerings, and even tops more old-school actioners like The Equalizer and Fury. Here is a lean, adrenaline-charged 100-minute thrill ride which understands economical storytelling, disposing of superfluous narrative tangents to focus on what matters. John Wick is a B-movie at heart, and on the surface may look like an unremarkable straight-to-video endeavour, but the execution is flawless, with miraculously choreographed action scenes and exceptional stunt-work elevating this brutal revenge flick into the stratosphere. Add to this a spot-on performance from Keanu Reeves, an R-rating and a well-judged screenplay, and this is one badass movie. Itís pure ecstasy that action fans will go gaga over.
††† A retired underworld assassin for the Russian mafia, John Wick (Reeves) tragically loses his wife to cancer, but she leaves him one last gift: a puppy for companionship. As John struggles to work through the grieving process, his life is thrown into turmoil again when his classic car is stolen and his pup is killed by Iosef (Alfie Allen), the son of powerful Russian kingpin Viggo (Michael Nyqvist). Learning of his idiot sonís actions, Viggo immediately realises that his entire operation is now under threat of being obliterated by the most dangerous man alive, and tries to come to a peaceful arrangement with John. However, John is focused on retribution, prompting Viggo to call in as many heavily armed men as he can to take down the killing machine as quickly as possible.
††† John Wick is one of the purest action flicks of recent years, but its taut disposition doesnít mean that plot is neglected. On the contrary, the action-free opening act is a masterpiece of economy, establishing Wickís character and situation mostly through images rather than words. But once Wick is wronged and the beast is unleashed, the flick roars to life, and the result is something to behold. Too many action movies are bogged down by humdrum love stories or other attempts to humanise the central hero, slowing the pace to a drag and denying us the pure testosterone boost we seek. But John Wick has no need for this brand of malarkey, which is another reason why itís such a breath of fresh air. With his wife dead, the titular assassin doesnít get involved with any other women, and heís so skilled that he only rarely finds himself out of his depth.
††† Some may decry that John is too unstoppable, but Iím personally sick of seeing ďbadassĒ heroes being captured or beaten within an inch of their life. John does receive a few injuries here and there, but for the most part heís supremely confident - and I found this quality both refreshing and satisfying. Above all, itís executed in a believable fashion. Furthermore, John meets an array of friends throughout the movie who are wholly aware of his abilities and reputation. Fellow killers and even police officers are wary to engage Wick, respectfully leaving him alone as he conducts his business. Such touches give the production a gorgeous flavour, provoking a few welcome moments of dark comedy to lighten up the violent affair.
††† The sheer excellence of the action sequences cannot be overstated; they are orgasmic. John Wick denotes the directorial debut of David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, two stuntman who have evidently learned from the best during their respective careers. The shootouts here are mostly devoid of shaky-cam and rapid-fire editing, with the directors instead adopting a wonderful arrangement of smooth camera movements and some astonishingly artistic tracking shots. John Wick wears its R-rating on its sleeve, as well; itís a beautiful antithesis to all of the politically-correct PG-13 action flicks that continually inundate todayís cinematic marketplace. Loud, savagely violent and hugely satisfying, all of the movieís action scenes absolutely s*** on the likes of Live Free or Die Hard, The Expendables 3, Terminator Salvation, and the RoboCop remake. Admittedly, there are a few evident instances of digital bloodshed, but the CGI doesnít look overly phoney and itís not distracting. Rather than looking like a post-production paint job, the blood is effectively integrated into the various environments.
††† Reeves has had his ups and downs as a thespian; despite a strong performance in The Matrix, heís bloody awful in motion pictures like Dracula and Johnny Mnemonic, and heís known for being wooden. John Wick, however, plays to Reevesí strengths, showing that he has more skill than his detractors are probably willing to admit. Reeves is cut from the same mould as Jason Statham, with minimalistic dialogue and a focus on physical action scenes, and the star absolutely nails it. He needs more roles like this. Fortunately, the supporting cast is just as impressive, with the likes of Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo and Ian McShane all hitting their marks with confidence. Nyqvist is also effective as the leader of the Russian gang, while Game of Thrones luminary Alfie Allen convinces as the daft, overconfident young man who awakens the beast within Wick.
††† John Wick plays out with the same verve as the ďone man armyĒ action movies from the 1980s, but with a contemporary polish. If you enjoyed the likes of Taken, Punisher: War Zone or Safe, you will definitely enjoy this deliriously entertaining slice of big screen escapism.
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††† Roadshow brings John Wick to Blu-ray with a 1080p, AVC-encoded high definition presentation that does quite well within the inherent limitations of the format. The movie was shot digitally on Arri Alexa cameras at 2.8K and reportedly finished at 4K, and thankfully the disc retains the picture's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. What separates John Wick from similarly-budgeted contemporary action movies is both its insane action choreography, as well as its slick, eye-catching cinematography. Indeed, director of photography Jonathan Sela creates a stunning visual style through deliberate use of shadows, lighting and colour filters, which makes the movie look highly cinematic and more expensive than it is. Although the 1080p encode competently handles the intricacies for the most part, the limited colour space does hold the transfer back from perfection; it doesn't look deep or rich enough. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc fares better in this respect.
††† Detail and sharpness consistently impresses. Close-ups fare best, as you can count the facial hairs and wrinkles on the faces of the performers, while fabric textures are brought out as well. Even in longer shots, there's still a fair amount of detail to be seen in the set design. And there are no issues with object delineation to speak of. Even in lower-light conditions and in rainy scenes, the transfer still maintains brilliant sharpness, even if detail does falter a tad. If there's a shortcoming, it's that the transfer isn't as refined as the Ultra HD Blu-ray. This isn't as noticeable on a smaller display, but it's obvious on my 65", especially when directly compared to the 4K disc. None of this means the transfer is bad by any means, but there's only so much you can do on Blu-ray, and the bitrate isn't exactly sky-high. Plus, digitally-shot movies tend to look on the smooth side.
††† The encode is otherwise competent. There isn't a trace of aliasing, banding, macroblocking, or any other anomalies to be found, and it's clear that no digital noise reduction or edge enhancement was used to artifically enhance the presentation. Shortcomings aside, John Wick is a great watch in 1080p, accurately recreating what the movie looked like on the big screen, and for the most part doing justice to the magnificent cinematography.
††† Only English subtitles are available. The master thankfully has stylish subtitles baked-in during the non-English moments, whereas most other movies rely on player-generated subtitles in these moments to make the disc more international-friendly.
Video Ratings Summary
††† John Wick was mixed in Dolby Atmos, which is available on Lionsgate's Region A Blu-ray release. But Roadshow have downgraded the audio for this disc, providing a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which is still quite good despite the lack of channels. John Wick is one hell of an action fiesta, filled with shootouts and car chases, and as a result there's plenty of subwoofer activity to accentuate each gunshot and car engine. During the nightclub sequence, the music delivers nice bass as well, guaranteed to make your walls rumble if you have the sound up high enough. This really is an aggressive track, and there's notable instances of surround activity to top it off.
††† There are no problems with any of the dialogue, as it's well-prioritised and always easy to hear, even during the more intense action beats. Added to this, thanks to the lossless encoding, the audio is crisp and clear throughout, with no hissing or drop-outs to speak of. The only shortcoming here is the occasional lack of dynamic range; the overseas Atmos mix is more precise with directionality, and therefore more immersive. But you'll only really notice this when watching on a more advanced sound system, or you perform direct comparisons.
††† To reiterate what I've said in many other reviews where channels have been dropped: this track will prove fine to people without any surround sound system, or to folks who only have a 5.1 system or less. But if you have a more extensive, expensive set-up, you'll notice a lack of dynamics.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
††† A slight but nevertheless solid selection of special features, headlined by an excellent audio commentary.
Audio Commentary by Filmmakers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch † † The pair of co-directors sit down for an informative audio commentary, bestowing as much behind-the-scenes information as they possibly can. Topics include the casting of Reeves, Reeves' acting style (he constantly asks for direction to make sure he's doing his job properly), and even needing to do ADR in a rainy scene because the on-set audio was unusable. The commentary is mostly scene-specific, touching on homages to various movies (including Leon: The Professional) and the cast. Cinematographic decisions are covered as well, including lenses and framing choices, with the boys frequently mentioning their love for DOP Jonathan Sela. The world itself is touched upon, too - the directors talk about adding the opening radio broadcast to broaden the world, as well as the fact that assassins deal in mysterious coins. They were quite conscious about creating a fully-realised world, and chose not to explain every detail. If you enjoy learning about filmmaking, you'll love this track. I learned a lot about the production.
Don't F*#% With John Wick (HD; 15:17) ††† This segment should rightly be called "Don't F*#% With Keanu Reeves," as the actor engaged in extensive training in the lead-up to shooting. For four months, training was Reeves' full-time job as he learned choreography and driving. There's loads of footage of Reeves doing his training, and on-set footage showing how many of the action scenes were shot. This isn't so much a "making-of" featurette, but rather an examination of the process behind making the fight scenes and shootouts. Very worthwhile stuff.
Calling in the Cavalry (HD; 11:58) ††† Another behind-the-scenes featurette which focuses on the actors, the initial pitch, bringing in directors David and Chad, and how the movie came to be. It's interesting stuff, mixing revealing on-set footage (great to see practical blood and blank-firing weapons were used) with interviews from an array of participants.
Destiny of a Collective (HD; 6:20) ††† This next featurette is devoted to the pair of directors, David Leitch and Chad Stahelski. The pair run their own stunt studio and have worked on action movies for many years, and they talk about the challenges associated with making their directorial debut. The actors all wax lyrical about the directors, too, and there's plenty of behind-the-scenes and rehearsal footage, as to be expected.
The Assassin's Code (HD; 5:16) ††† As implied by the title, this segment is all about the world of John Wick, populated by a society of assassins. Facets of the world - including the gold coins, and the general formalities - are touched upon. Worthwhile.
The Red Circle (HD; 6:27) ††† This excellent featurette is solely focused on the standout nightclub shootout. Cast and crew talk about the sequence, and many of the action beats are shown, but seamlessly intercut with behind-the-scenes footage. It's cool to see how several moments were executed.
N.Y.C. Noir (HD; 6:00) ††† And lastly, we have a featurette about the stylistic and visual choices. The filmmakers mention graphic novels a fair bit throughout the extras, and such discussions are brought up again here. Locations are briefly touched upon, on top of the obvious discussion about atmosphere. A great way to cap off the extras.
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
† † Compared to Lionsgate's Region A edition, Roadshow's disc misses out on:
††† The Region A is the clear winner based on the audio alone, though it might not matter as much to other consumers. Worth noting that the USA release is region locked, but the Region B UK release from Lionsgate appears to be identical to the Region A in terms of audio specs and special features. The choice is up to you.
- Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio
- Theatrical Trailer
††† In any other universe, John Wick would be a direct-to-video cheapie, but it's a low-budget miracle which rightly garnered a cult following worldwide. It's exciting, visually arresting, layered, and it features Keanu Reeves in his best performance to date. Don't miss it.
††† Roadshow's Blu-ray is competent from a technical standpoint, despite only sporting a 5.1 audio mix, and the special features are interesting and worthwhile. Recommended.
© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Monday, July 31, 2017
|DVD||Samsung UBD-K8500 4K HDR Blu-Ray Player, using HDMI output|
This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
|Amplification||Samsung Series 7 HT-J7750W|
|Speakers||Samsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up|
R.I.P. Michael Nyqvist
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John Wick 2