John Wick | 2014
When a bunch of goons not only steals the car but kills the cute puppy of recently widowed ex-hit-man John Wick (Keanu Reeves), we know that he will find them, and he will kill them in this energetically violent revenge thriller from first-time directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch.
The pair were previously second-unit directors and stunt coordinators, who’d worked on the Matrix films (for which Stahelski was Reeves’ stunt double), so it comes as no surprise that breathtakingly elaborate fights and stunts take precedence over sparkling dialogue and in-depth characterisation.
In fact, the film has a deliberately unreal air, set in a strangely otherworldly New Jersey-New York, where criminals adhere to a strictly observed code and favours are paid in gleaming gold coins.
And so it is here, as John Wick lays to rest his wife. The vast cemetery backed by the Manhattan skyline, where Wick talks enigmatically with old friend Marcus (Willem Dafoe), is Calvary Cemetery, Greenpoint Avenue in Queens – famous from films including The Godfather and Midnight Cowboy.
Wick proceeds to work off his pent-up emotions driving crazily around Republic Airport, 7150 Republic Airport, in East Farmingdale on Long Island.
Supposedly in ‘New Jersey’, the gas station where Iosef (Alfie Allen), the wayward son of an underworld boss, sets his sights on Wick’s 1969 Ford Mustang is the CITGO Station, 501 North Highland Avenue in Upper Nyack, upstate New York.
After the break in and the violence at his smart modern home, tucked away just north of Horseshoe Road in Mill Neck on the north shore of Long island, Wick is tipped off by loyal garage owner Aurelio (John Leguizamo) that it’s Iosef who’s in possession of his car. Aurelio’s shady chop shop is Pine Scrap Metal, 34-40 Laurel Hill Boulevard, Queens, in the shadow of the Kosciusko Bridge, carrying the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
It happens that Iosef’s father, underworld bigshot Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), is Wick’s one-time boss, and the old man is soon on the phone to Aurelio from his swanky pool atop the James New York Hotel, 27 Grand Street, in SoHo.
He sends a 12-man team on what he knows is a doomed mission to take out his lethal former employee and, sure enough, Wick casually sees off the crew.
Wick moves into Manhattan, checking into the mysterious ‘Continental Hotel’, a safe meeting place, run by Winston (Ian McShane) for high-end bad guys with strictly formal old-school rules – when you are at the Continental, you behave.
This odd establishment looks a little like famed restaurant Delmonico’s, but it’s not. The striking flatiron building is 1 Wall Street Court, known as the Beaver Building or the Cocoa Exchange, at the junction of Beaver and Pearl Streets in Lower Manhattan. It's not a hotel at all, but houses a branch of Haru Sushi restaurant and condominiums.
The hotel’s austere deco lobby, where the chillingly polite manager (Lance Reddick) offers some pretty unmatched, is that of the old Cunard Building, 25 Broadway (once the Cunard line’s ticketing hall). The same office was the workplace of the obnoxious Vance in Will Smith comedy Hitch.
Here Wick is tipped off by Winston that Iosef can be found at the ‘Red Circle’ nightclub.
With its grandiose entrance, and boasting a long queue waiting in line, this is not the most discreet club in New York. In fact, this exterior is the Surrogate’s Court, 31 Chambers Street at Center Street, Lower Manhattan, which you might remember as the office of Dr Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman) in Joel Schumacher’s 1995 Batman Forever. The New York Municipal Building in the background isn’t usually illuminated so luridly.
Although Tarasov loses countless henchmen in Wick’s assault on the club, Iosef himself manages to make an escape and go into hiding.
Back at the Continental, the hotel’s fiercely guarded etiquette is breached by assassin Ms Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), who makes a determined attempt on Wick’s life. He, of course, survives and manages to extract from Perkins the details of Tarasov’s subterranean vault hidden beneath a church in ‘Little Russia’.
New York’s real Little Russia is Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach neighbourhood, but the church is St Francis Xavier Church, 225 6th Avenue in Brooklyn’s Park Slope.
Wick raises the stakes by torching not only Tarasov’s cash but also his priceless assets.
It’s beneath the eastern approach to the Williamsburg Bridge that Wick catches up with Tarasov and spares his life in exchange for the whereabouts of his son.
It’s payback time for all concerned. After Iosef is despatched, Marcus in turn stoically accepts his fate at Tarasov’s hands in his Upper East Side townhouse, 160 East 83rd Street at 3rd Avenue.
Ms Perkins is called to account by Winston for breaking hotel rules beneath the arches at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.
Wick and Tarasov drop the guns to settle the score finally in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
With a replacement doggy, Wick finally walks away along the Brooklyn Bridge Park walkway, alongside the East River between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.