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John Wick - Review

John Wick

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

KEANU Reeves has already starred in three genre-defining action movies – Point Break, Speed and the original Matrix – and John Wick could just be his fourth.

Co-directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, who have previously worked with Reeves on The Matrix trilogy’s stunts, this is a revenge thriller that’s as cool as hell yet refreshingly hard-hitting.

It’s the type of film that knows not to take itself too seriously, yet one that exhibits a decent emotional pull and a smart sense of humour to offset the violence. And in doing so, it sets up its central character, John Wick, as an icon of cool who looks set to become one of 2015’s most memorable cinematic creations.

The story is fairly straight-forward. Ex-hitman John Wick (Reeves) is forced out of retirement following the death of his wife when a group of gangsters take everything from him (including his beloved car and the pet puppy left to him as a final gift from his wife).

The ensuing revenge mission pits him against his former boss Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), whose son (Alfie Allen) instigated the attack on Wick’s home. But it also finds him facing every hitman in town, as Viggo attempts desperately to prevent Wick claiming the life of his son.

At a time when a lot of action films seem content to dilute their violence in an attempt to pander to the 12A demographic, or stretch things out to unnecessary lengths, John Wick is notable for employing a ruthless efficiency that leaves you breathlessly excited and actually gasping for more.

It wastes precious little time in setting everything up and then revels in setting its central protagonist free to wreak fast and furious revenge. And given that Stahelski and Leitch set new benchmarks in what can be achieved within the action genre with The Matrix it comes as no surprise to find them delivering some suitably jaw-dropping action sequences here.

A nightclub scene in which Wick literally becomes a one-man army is thrillingly choreographed with the kind of balletic gun-play that used to be the central reserve of John Woo, while several other gun-fights and fist fights dazzle by virtue of their mastery of the genre.

The characters, too, are a wonderfully realised bunch who each make their mark on proceedings. Wick is the epitome of ruthless killer cool, looking dapper in his suits, yet ruthlessly efficient when it comes to despatching his enemies.

But there’s cracking support, too, from the likes of Willem Dafoe (as an enigmatic fellow assassin), Nyqvist (as the increasingly desperate crime boss), Adrianne Palicki (as another assassin), Lance Reddick (as a charismatically deadpan hotel manager) and Ian McShane (wonderfully malevolent as another gangland boss).

The look of the film is also terrific, often setting things against neon cityscapes that put a different, sometimes vaguely other-worldly spin on proceedings, while simultaneously tipping its hat to the classic crime dramas of the ’70s or other similarly no-nonsense revenge thrillers such as Mel Gibson’s Payback.

If there are criticisms, they are but minor ones – the final fight pales by comparison to the nightclub sequence, while the likes of Bridget Moynahan’s love interest and John Leguizamo’s fellow hood are under-employed.

But in the main, this is a first-class thrill-ride of ridiculously enjoyable proportions. In short, John Wick offers bloody, brutal brilliance from start to finish.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 101mins
UK Release Date: April 10, 2015