Wednesday, 4 February 2015

John Wick (2014)

If you want your action sequences to an A standard and your movies to a B, then John Wick might be the Keanu Reeves return to the floor that you've been waiting for.

Reeves reappears in the form of John Wick, a hitman who comes out of retirement to avenge the killing of his dog, itself a final gift from his recently deceased wife. In his campaign to get revenge on the killer he'll tear apart the Russian mob, the hitman underworld and large swathes of New York City.

This film is built purely on one major strength: the  unrelenting, visceral action. Teaming up with Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, whom he first met on the set of The Matrix where they were charting the choreography, Reeves brings the familiar finesse and weight to the bullet ballet that takes up a majority of the screen time.

"Gun fu" is a term that I have laughed at, am laughing at as I type, and will most likely laugh at in the future. It's a silly term, but it completely works because it's made for ridiculous movies. That is not a bad thing. Much in the same way that Kung Fu films had crazy, unbelievable fights that could never happen, films like John Wick have people so effective at combat and killing and shooting that it makes Gun Fu an applicable description. The weapons of the killers in John Wick are extensions of their owners' bodies making it as much as a martial art as karate or judo.

Wide, extended shots allow the beauty of all the fight choreography to really shine through. Where many films cower behind frenetic motion and quick cuts, John Wick avoids the shortcuts even in its sure to be iconic night-club chase-come-massacre.

All this action takes place in a hammed up B movie hitman underworld completely bathed in style. Once he rejoins the criminal profesion, Wick inhabits a world where there are killer clubhouses, a hitman code and everybody seems to know everybody else's name and business (all things that, I imagine, don't tend to work out too well for your modern contract killer). The supporting cast, made up of femme fatales, unnerving hotel concierge and Russian playboys, pad out this world and bring it to life in that charms in a way only something out of a B movie can.

Somehow pulpy and fresh, John wick delivers a visceral, uncomplicated take on the B movie revenge film and Keanu Reeves proves that, as well as not physically ageing, he still possesses the skills to inflict unblinking, unemoting pain on the countless unnamed thugs of the mythical underworld.

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