Wednesday, 7 October 2015

John Wick

Ever since his run of successful action films in the 1990s – including The Matrix, Speed and the soon-to-be-remade Point Break – Keanu Reeves has been a little off. In the 2000s he was too busy making romantic bullshit like Something’s Gotta Give and The Lake House to remember his action roots, and it looked like all hope was lost for him in 2010 when the Sad Keanu meme started to take the internet by storm. But in 2013, it looked like things were changing. With the samurai action flick 47 Ronin, could Keanu be back?! No. 47 Ronin was utter pants. The world gave up on Keanu. But now, the world stands together in perfect unity and apologises. Keanu, you’ve still got it.

Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray comes John Wick, the directorial debut of Chad Stahelski and David Leitch – funnily enough, both stuntmen who served as doubles for Reeves in The Matrix trilogy. The film stars Reeves as the eponymous hero, a retired legendary hitman on a rampage seeking vengeance for the recent theft of his car and brutal killing of his puppy - a gift from his recently deceased wife. There isn’t much of a plot here. Like most action films, and specifically revenge films, the narrative is rather inconsequential. The tagline of John Wick is ‘Don’t set him off’, which is exactly what the minor plot is there for. Once John is set off, all we have to do is sit back and watch as he shoots his way to internal peace with a trail of bloodied bodies in his wake. And come on, who is going to complain about that? “I liked all the action, but there’s no story”…Right. If you’re watching this, it’s because you want to see bad bastards getting shot and stuff blowing up. You don’t care why. 

Once you get into the action sequences, you’ll forget what little plot there is anyway. The action here is some of the most immersive, intense and damn entertaining we’ve seen in a while. The directors have stated their approach to the action drew from their love of anime and martial arts films, using gun-fu techniques and fight choreographers from Hong Kong action cinema throughout the production. On top of this, the film pays homage to many films, from John Woo’s work back to the early spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone. Yes, like the recent Big Game, John Wick is something of a love letter to the golden age of action films.

But apart from anything, John Wick is a return to form for Keanu. He’s absolutely great in it, delivering one of the most bad-ass performances in recent cinema history. Sure, he’s not a great actor per se. In terms of actual acting talent, Willem Dafoe and Ian McShane deliver pretty damn fine performances and, if anything, are acting a little too well for such a ridiculous action film. But Keanu’s over-the-top action sequences (for which he claims he performed ‘90%’ of his own stunts) are the main pull for this delightfully violent B-movie. ‘People keep asking if I'm back and I haven't really had an answer’, John Wick says in the film, ‘but yeah, I'm thinking I'm back’. This line almost feels autobiographical for Keanu.

John Wick is brilliant. It’s dark, it’s bloody, and it’s ridiculously over-the-top. But Keanu Reeves is back, ladies and gentlemen. It’s been confirmed that John Wick 2 is already in production with the intent of making a John Wick trilogy. You’ll hear no complaints from me, and if you watch this first adventure for the eponymous hitman – you won’t be complaining either.

John Wick is one of the finest action films of recent years and a stunning return to form for a 90s action icon. 5/5.


Sam Love

John Wick at CeX

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