Wednesday, 4 February 2015

John Wick (2014)

Oh boy. John Wick is jaw-droppingly good. There's no point in holding back here. This is the most fun I've had with an action movie since The Raid 2: Berandal or The Guest. Which makes 2014 a bit of a banner year for action movie fans.

Keanu Reeves plays the titular character, a skilled killer who is now retired. When one character remarks that he is made to sound like the boogeyman, another immediately corrects him. John Wick is who you would send to kill the boogeyman. So why is anyone bothered about him if he's retired? Well, a daft lad (played by Alfie Allen) decided to break into his home, beat him up a bit, kill his dog, and steal his car. And it's the death of the dog that spurs Wick back into action. The daft lad may have a powerful criminal for a father (played by Michael Nyqvist) but that won't help him. Perhaps nothing will.

I'd like to read the screenplay for John Wick, written by Derek Kolstad, because I can only imagine that there are a few pages of character set-up before eighty pages that just contain the words "Wick shoots everyone in the face" - possibly scrawled in red ink. Because that's what makes this movie so fantastic. It's not a sanitised film trying to get a more lenient rating that will allow younger viewers to check it out in cinemas. This is a violent, bloody, brilliant piece of choreography.

Chad Stahelski, and David Leitch (who co-directed and co-produced with Stahelski), can bring the pain. They obviously worked closely with the stunt team to showcase physical routines that blend cinematic magic with details and moves that feel very real. Throw a lively soundtrack on top of the frenetic action and you have an easy crowd-pleaser for action junkies.

Reeves is better than ever here, adding to his not-inconsiderable roster of classic action movie heroes with another performance that requires him to be at his very best, both physically and in terms of attitude. The fact that none of the supporting players feel completely overshadowed is testament to the efficient script and the great casting. Allen is amusing as the hot-headed youngster acting brave until in very real danger, Nyqvist is great as the man who fears and respects Wick, while also doing everything he can to protect his foolish son. Willem Dafoe may be out to help our main character, may be out to harm him. Either way, he's excellent. And Adrienne Palicki is enjoyable as a dangerous female looking to score big when a price is put on Wick's head. Lance Reddick, Ian McShane and John Leguizamo round things out nicely, all making the best of their limited screentime.

It's genuinely hard to imagine any action fan disliking this movie. Okay, animal lovers will be upset by the motivation for the main killing spree, but it's that seemingly minor plot point that also makes this such a pure, enjoyable experience. Wick is a good man capable of very bad things, and you never once feel that he's going too far when the extent of just what he's had taken away from him becomes clear.

One to see/buy as soon as possible. I know that I'm already dying to rewatch it as soon as I've finished writing this review.


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