John Wick (Chad Stahelski, 2014, USA/UK/China)

John Wick has entered the pantheon of great action titles, and it is curious to understand why. There is a kind of brutal simplicity in the premise of the film - a man loses his wife, and before she dies she gifts him a dog. The man's dog is killed and he is roughed up while some thugs steal his car. The man is brought back into the criminal underworld where he came from to reap vengeance. There is not much more to the plot than this, and yet somehow it works. The film re-launched Keanu Reeves back into stardom, not that he had ever left the scene. But his performance is key to the film's success, as he pulls off the physicality of the assassin quite well. And the choice to make the puppy the source of Wick's quest for vengeance is a simple one, but also quite memorable. The original intention was for the thugs to kill off John's family, but the puppy makes the film much more memorable.

Revisiting the film, I was struck by how stylistic it is. Of course, the fight choreography is great, including the "gun-fu" action. But the film - bathed in blues, greens, and purples - has a distinct color palette that permeates throughout. The neo-noir aesthetic lends a distinctness to the film that is not present in other films of its type and elevates the material. The supporting cast is also quite memorable, with Alfie Allen's Iosef as a particular unpleasant villain. Remarkably, one of the most successful action franchises of the last decade came out of this film, but at the same time, it is not that surprising. John Wick has entered the pantheon of classic action films, and one would hope that there will be more such films in the future.


8/10

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