After Fast and Furious 7 launched the summer season, Keanu Reeves quietly re-launched his own career with this under-the-radar gem.
It has garnered a cult-like following (and already got the green light for a sequel) after opening to little fanfare in the States – but this action-thriller is better than all three Taken films rolled into one.
Reeves undoubtedly puts in his best performance since The Matrix as ex-mob hitman John Wick, who comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters, who beat him up, stole his prized car, and calously killed his dog – a gift from his dying wife (Bridget Moynahan).
Unfortunately the sadistic young leader (Alfie Allen) of this Russian group – who is the son of Wick’s former employer (Michael Nyqvist) – didn’t realise he’d awoken a retired killer, who will now stop at nothing to hunt down his adversaries with the skill and ruthlessness that made him an underworld legend.
And by ruthless, John Wick ends all of his kills with a decisive ‘make sure they’re staying down’ headshot that would leave even the best Call of Duty players envious.
Throw in some great supporting turns from Willem Dafoe and Adrianne Palicki as hitmen (or hit ‘people’) sitting on either side of Wick’s fence – along with superb cameos from Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Lance Reddick – then you’ve got a film that makes killing: crazy, sexy, cool.
Debut director Chad Stahelski has propelled himself right to the top of Hollywood’s directorial wanted list with a movie that oozes sleekly stylised set-pieces that keep you glued to the screen from start-to-finish – and manages to provide engaging characters (particularly Reeves’ Wick) that you actually care for.
This beats to its own drum (with Wick kind of being the ‘good guy’ equivalent to Tom Cruise’s Collateral ‘bad guy’) and despite a generally generic premise – and a last third that loses a bit of impetus – is elevated way above what should be expected for the genre by all involved.
It couldn’t have been put more eloquently than when Nvqvist’s lead villain Viggo Tarasov says: “John wasn’t exactly the boogeyman – he’s the one you sent to kill the boogeyman.”
One thing’s for sure, you’d prefer to face the ‘boogeyman’ than the uncompromising Wick – as the best revenge movie in ages gives Reeves a career renaissance.
You never know, he might even be the new Liam Neeson