Keanu Reeves makes a striking return to form with John Wick – a highly charged revenge film from debut director Chad Stahelski. Boasting slickly choreographed action, gleefully extravagant violence, a dark sense of humour, and a simple, clean-cut premise, this is a riot.
Reeves takes the titular role of John Wick, a former assassin forced out of retirement when the son of a local crime boss kills his dog – a dying gift from his late wife. Wick proceeds to hunt down the men responsible – encountering some familiar faces along the way.
With a narrative that would feel at home in a mid-eighties Canon flick, Stahelski manages to straddle the line between amped-up modernity and simplistic throwback nostalgia. From the refreshingly earnest premise of plain old blood-soaked revenge to the synth-laden score, John Wick is pleasingly familiar. However, Stahelski equips his feature with a gritty contemporary edge through his slick direction seen in the film’s multitude of set-pieces packed with convincingly brutal fist-fights and high-tech arms warfare.
Stahelski’s background as a stunt coordinator is fully apparent when we see the blistering ferocity that he delivers each action spectacle with. The death of Wick’s puppy is so unflinchingly brutal and taps into an instinctively human nerve with a curious poignancy, that ensures we are behind Wick’s actions 100%. The more over-the-top and joyously violent proceedings get, the higher the cathartic pleasure there is to be found in John Wick. Swimming pools, high end nightclubs, and hotel rooms serve as extravagant yet somewhat seedy canvases for this tale of bloodlust to unfold upon.
Even when the dialogue is at its worst, a cast playing it completely straight makes John Wick consistently enjoyable. Reeves is effortlessly cool as the black suit-clad hitman, driven by a hazy mix of grief and revenge. Convincing in both the action scenes and at conveying a subtle emotional nerve, this is the actor’s most watchable performance since the nineties. A supporting cast chocked-full of cult favourites like Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki, and Willem Dafoe keep proceedings continually likeable.
John Wick is a tremendously entertaining serving of blood-drenched cathartic chaos – and one of the rare films to boast the message “If anyone harms your pets – kill ’em.”
Genre:Action, Thriller Distributor:Warner Bros UK Release Date:10th April 2015 (UK) Rating: 18 Director: Chad Stahelski Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Dean Winters, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki,John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Bridget Moynahan