The UK does increasingly well with regards to movie release dates. We get most Marvel movies a week before release, even It Follows landed here before the US. But, sometimes, thing’s don’t pan out so well. Keanu Reeves actioneer John Wick dropped in October over the pond, and my anticipation has been sky-high since then . . . but, boy, did it deliver!
John Wick is quite simply one of the great American action movies of the 21st century.
The set-up is refreshingly simple; our kick-ass hero is brought out of retirement to deliver ass-kicking fight scene after ass-kicking fight scene all over the Big Apple.
Major plus points, as well, for ‘originality’. Wick isn’t an adaptation, a sequel, a prequel, a spin-off or a reboot; it’s a barebones throwback to the great revenge thrillers of old. But how were we to know that? All we were given was a name . . .
The movie’s near silent opening quarter of an hour answers few questions. So, how enticing it is to discover that Wick is known to everyone but us (and Alfie Allen’s cocksure Iosef Tarasov). This central hook is brilliantly reeled in and, while Wick’s past may not hide too many surprises for genre aficionados, it’s still a real thrill to see our hero resorting back to a previous life.
And talking of resorting back, it’s a long time since I’ve seen a full-blooded American action movie given this kind of budget (a healthy $20m), and Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (directors) deliver on every penny. The movie looks incredible!
It glistens with a spunky sheen and the cars, guns and locations all look top-notch. The supremely confident direction also belies Stahelski and Leitch inexperience. They sling the camera around with gleeful abandon, especially during the intense fight scenes.
While it may not have the lightning fast choreography of The Raid (and it’s sequel), the hand-to-hand combat is absolutely bone-crunching. Add guns into the mix, however, and you have something else entirely. Keanu whips his pistol around majestically, and it’s during these scenes that Wick’s specific set of skills really shine through. The long takes are positively balletic in their steady rhythm and, dare I say it, grace.
Keanu Reeves’ hero will go down in cinematic history as a modern action icon. John Wick is an absolute blast from beginning to end!