"People keep asking if I'm back. Yeah, I'm thinking I'm back.'
The recent trend of action films seem to involve featuring a main character who is, shall we say, of the more experienced generation. You want proof, the 62 year old Liam Neeson is starring in every other action film put out, middle aged gentleman Colin Firth is possibly the most outrageously violent spy in recent memory and now we have Keanu Reeves who (though he doesn’t look it) has recently turned 50. The other thing that’s going back more than one generation is the quality, because like any action film of yesterday, it’s far better than the ones we have today.
A group of violent and uncontrollable gangsters break into the home of a man, steal his car, beat him to a pulp and just for the fun of it kill his beloved dog. They think they’ve got away from their night’s activities scot-free and think no more about the man they humiliated, Unfortunately for them their victim was a retired assassin, infamous among the underworld, John Wick. And now they’ve made him very angry.
Let’s get one thing straight from the start. John Wick is about as basic an action movie you can get in terms of plot. It reminds me of the Raid Redemption in many ways, but instead of a group of soldiers attacking a building we witness a man who woke up on the wrong side of bed (the side that happened to have a group of bloodthirsty mobsters on it) and now he wants to take his frustration out in the healthiest way possible, killing anyone who gets in his way of having a full and frank discussion (followed by a full and frank fight) with these gentlemen.
Most directors think that by shaking the camera and using loud noises they can create a great action film. But this is not true and you realise it when you watch a film directed as well as John Wick. Directors Chad Staheliski and David Leitch both have a great background in stunts and choreography and it really shows. Every sequence just looks and feels perfectly and painstakingly designed and executed with precise and powerful techniques. The action is all wonderfully inventive as well as being fantastically peppered with a sense of dry humour.
What I really love is that there isn’t a great need to give exposition to everything. Everything that effects Wick is addressed but then left alone once he leaves them. An example is the fact that much of the film takes place in a ‘hideaway for hitmen’ and that brings out so many colourful characters that may bog down some films of this genre, but not John Wick. Instead it ploughs on at a fast pace, throwing punches, raining bullets and generally beating up baddies along the way. That is how an action movie should move.
But it’s not all action with no room for acting. Willem Dafoe is on hand to offer a charismatic and strangely terrifying performance and of course, there’s Keanu. This could very well be his best performance EVER. The physicality for one thing is amazing, it’s obvious that Reeves is fully committed to this role and his not afraid to take what could have been a comical character in the hands of any other actor and deliver every line with such passion and belief that you really do believe in everything he says. There are several monologues over how important his dog was to him and as the film progresses you fall under his influence and shockingly you agree with Wick’s view of that they deserve to die for killing his poor pooch.
Some say that the recent trend of comic book movies has made it increasingly difficult to make an action film. But by borrowing some key aspects, mythology and style of the genre John Wick seems to exceed others that hold the view of staying as far away from superheroes as possible. It suits the story as well because if this was treated in a different manner Wick would be seen as a superhero and therefore un-relatable. But here it just works.
Keanu kicks arse.