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Movie Review | John Wick

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) and friend in John Wick

Movie summary: An ex-hit-man comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that killed his dog and took everything from him. (IMDb)

It took me a long time to get on board the John Wick bandwagon - and I have to admit that I'm still not fully on-board, although this is partly to do with the sequel which I'll look at tomorrow. As far as this first instalment goes, the trailers and marketing never really did anything to grab me and it wasn't until last year that I finally got around to watching it for the first time.

It didn't help that I wasn't a fan of the previous film critics' action movie darling, The Raid, which I thought was over-rated - not bad, but neither did I think that it was anywhere near as good as some were claiming. As a result, the enthusiasm for John Wick didn't really mean all that much to me until friends started pestering me to watch it and I eventually gave in.

And I have to say that I'm glad they did pester me, because John Wick is a really, really good action movie. I do think it is still a little over-rated, but not by that much, with Keanu Reeves utterly excelling as the retired hitman getting dragged back into a world of violence thanks to an idiot Russian criminal (played by Alfie Allen) stealing his car and... worse.

The main reason I like this movie so much is because of how the action is so inventive and creative, while still being slick and smooth to watch. It probably helped that the directors (Chad Stahelski, David Leitch) were former stunt performers/choreographers, because it's all so convincing too, which is doubly impressive considering how much of the action feels so fresh and new.

John Wick also pulls off that impressive balance of making the title character as devastatingly destructive and efficient as he is, while still leaving the antagonists a threat because of superior numbers. No matter how impressive Reeves makes Wick look, you're still never certain that he's going to get out of any given situation until it's actually over.

I do also love the world that they've built around John Wick, especially the various rules and codes this secret society of criminals and killers choose to keep to. Ian McShane as Winston, proprietor of The Continental (a hotel for hitmen), is the pick of the bunch and just as fearsome as everyone else here, even if he's generally far more affable about everything - including always calling Wick 'Jonathan' like a stern father.

Yeah, he's thinking he's back in John Wick

The movie also has its own unique look, which was identifiable to me even before I'd seen the movie, with everyone involved dressed immaculately while drenched in blue and purple lighting. Atomic Blonde tried to ape this style and was partly successful, but even then I think that served to make it look even more like an homage to John Wick rather than its own identity.

Another difference is that there's no romantic or sexual subplot here, other than occasional sparks between Wick and Perkins (Adrianne Palicki). Atomic Blonde gets the lead to strip off for a lesbian sex scene, while John Wick stays focussed on driving forward with murderous intent - a perfect reflection of the two movies, one getting caught up in fluff while the other is laser-sharp.

I'm not sure that John Wick is the kind of movie that is particularly re-watchable, as I feel that other action franchises have stepped up since this came out (especially the amazing Mission: Impossible - Fallout), but I would still highly recommend seeing this at least once, if just to see how influential this movie has been for big-screen action over the last five years.

John Wick is a great action film, packed with excellent - and inventive - choreography that will keep you entertained throughout. There's not an abundance of dialogue, but neither does there need to be, with actions speaking much louder than words here. As for Reeves, the role fits him like a glove and you will believe he is this character after just a few scenes.


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