John Wick (2014)

Directors: Chad Stahelski & David Leitch

Which is basically what you get when two former stuntmen team up to direct a film starring some guy for whom they used to be stunt doubles. I vaguely remember when this came out, its comparatively brief running time (about 100 minutes) was kind of a selling point in this age of every other film running two hours plus, and to be sure John Wick is remarkably fat-free in that department. The titular character (Keanu Reeves, looking ridiculously youthful for a man pushing 50) is a former hitman associated with Russian gangsters in New York; after the death of his wife, he is set upon by the idiot son of said Russian gangster boss, stealing his car, killing his dog, and beating the shit out of him, because idiot son has no idea who he is. And that lack of knowledge will wind up hurting…

John Wick, therefore, is basically a B-movie revenge actioner, with no especial higher thoughts or purpose to it, and films with no pretensions are perfectly OK with me when they’re as well-made as this. One of the avowed influences on the film was Mr Woo’s The Killer, and it’s easy to envisage this as a Hong Kong “heroic bloodshed” film from around that time, albeit perhaps not quite as gory and not as tonally excessive as Woo… John Wick is that sort of larger-than-life character, almost absurdly gifted at what he does, and there’s a sort of slightly cold stylisation to the whole film that gives everything in it a kind of unreal cast. A pretty unabashedly “B” film bordering upon the comic book in some ways, which is perfectly fine; there’s nothing inherently wrong with a B film that’s proficiently made and manifests a decent degree of skill and style, and John Wick scores on that front. An ideal bit of Friday night viewing.

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