A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that John Wick is a brutally violent, frequently bloody thriller starring Keanu Reeves as an assassin. There's a very high body count: Characters are shot, maimed, stabbed, beaten, threatened, killed with firearms at close range, blown to bits in an explosion, strangled with bare hands, and more. And especially because so much of the violence is depicted in a stylized, semi-glamorized way, it's best reserved for the oldest teens and adults. Interestingly, a streak of humor also runs through it, and fight scenes choreographed so thrillingly that it's almost like watching ballet -- albeit a gunshot-riddled, rough-and-tumble one. You can also expect lots of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and more) and a fair amount of drinking, as well as pot smoking.
What's the story?
JOHN WICK (Keanu Reeves) is a retired assassin who was once the best in the business. But after a long illness that leads to the death of his beloved wife (Bridget Moynihan), he's pulled back into a world that he left long ago for love. A chance encounter with the entitled, violent son of an old associate ends up with John bloodied in his own home and the dog his wife left him as a parting gift slaughtered. For John, there's now no other recourse but revenge.
Is it any good?
Few films in this genre are known for their intricate, layered dialogue or depth of feeling, and this doesn't exactly break these conventions. (Its most entertaining line may actually be "Oh.") But there's no denying the artistry that went into its filming. The frames are well-crafted, the pace quick and effortless, the fight scenes choreographed like a ballet. It looks fantastic. And although it's an action thriller, it has a streak of humor that confidently runs through it, making it even more entertaining. Reeves' impermeable face and economic acting work well in this context because he plays a mystery man who remains mysterious throughout. And the rest of the cast -- especially Willem Dafoe and Michael Nyqvist -- is great, too.
But there's no doubt that John Wick is deeply violent. It starts out quiet, and the first attack comes as a shock, which works well for the story. But after a while, all the fights begin to numb; although they're beautifully filmed, they lose their potency, since they come fast and furious without much room to breathe or process what's happening. And parents will want to know that the fighting is so ferocious that it borders on barbarous, making the movie best left for mature teens and adults.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why John Wick gets back in the "business." Are his reasons, in this messed-up world, at all reasonable? Is he a sympathetic character, despite his line of work? Why or why not?
John Wick is a violent movie. Does it glamorize the violence? If so, how? Does all the violence serve the story, or does it go too far?
John is strongly motivated by revenge. Is that understandable? Is revenge ever an acceptable excuse for violence?
- In theaters: October 24, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: February 3, 2015
- Cast: Keanu Reeves, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Michael Nyqvist
- Director: David Leitch
- Studio: Summit Entertainment
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong and bloody violence throughout, language and brief drug use
For kids who love action
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.