John Wick (2015)
Directed by: Chad Stahelki & David Leitch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Alfie Allen, Michael Nygvist,
Though many film fans can’t forgive Keanu Reeves for his sins committed in Coppola’s Dracula and the Matrix sequels, I remained a fan and deep down I think that in the right role, Reeves is a talented performer, bringing something to the screen that a less charismatic actor could never do. The same feelings echo with Nicolas Cage: those who renounce him for The Wicker Man remake and Ghost Rider films should re-watch Leaving Las Vegas and Raising Arizona and have a long, deep think. I am happy to announce that John Wick is a return to form for Reeves, one of the most watchable and engaging action films of the last few years – this is a welcome sight for those who with post-Expendables fatigue.
In the last few years, there has been a recent spike in action films with rather simplistic plots. The trend arguably birthed due to phenomenal the success of films like Taken and The Raid, titles which wasted no time with exposition and unnecessary dialogue: showing not telling. Just like those films, John Wick is by some means a simple film.
When retired assassin, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is given a puppy, seemingly out of the blue, from his recently deceased wife, he finds a way to escape his grief. But when his beloved new pet is killed in the midst of a brutal home invasion, he sets out for revenge.
What brings out the fast-paced, kinetic energy is the direction by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. The pair are veterans of the movie stunt industry, with both of them working with Reeves during the production of the second and third Matrix sequels. What separates John Wick from the standard Hollywood action fare is the self-aware nature of the film, you feel like you are watching a loving pastiche of great action films, sharing DNA with the likes of Commando, Death Wish and Hard Boiled. Not only does John Wick embrace the clichés of action cinema but also does it’s best to subvert them, viewers who actively cringe at the mere thought of endless ammo clips and overly edited fight choreography will find themselves pleasantly rewarded. The film only suffers when it tries to elevate itself above being an action film, certain shots would not fit out of place in a Nicolas Winding Refn film – but more Only God Forgives than Drive.
Reeves joins a small, but talented cast. Alfie Allen stars the villainous youth Iosef, who’s foolhardy behaviour sets Wick on his tale of vengeance. Michael Nyqvist is on top-from as Iosef’s ruthless crime boss father. Ian McShane and Willem Dafoe have small roles as mentor-like figures to Wick, both enjoying their scene-stealing roles.
John Wick is an intense and highly entertaining action flick that feels very genuine and a real product of passion, the directors have a real love for the genre and it’s great to see to such skilled choreography on the big screen. Though not perhaps a landmark in action cinema – the success of John Wick proves that the genre is far from dead and in a landscape full of PG-13 releases, endless sequels and doomed remakes, John Wick is a real breath of fresh air.