(Chad Stahelski, David Leitch, 2014)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: A fresh approach that avoids the usual genre trappings, Keanu Reeves revenge flick 'John Wick' is as good as it gets.
You've seen 'John Wick' before, or at least you think you have when you look at the plot: Retired, grieving hitman comes back for one last job - exacting revenge on Russian gangsters who tore his life apart. The body count is over 100. The characters are typical to the genre.
It's been done to death but 'John Wick', which stars Keanu Reeves in the titular lead role, brings something new to the table, infusing a sort of graphic novel grit and darkly funny touches that make the screen pop.
It doesn't explain everything (such as the mysterious gold coin payment system or the oddly robotic mob world's way of operating) nor take its audience for granted. 'John Wick' is out to impress you by luring you into familiar territory and then somehow forcing you to lose yourself in it.
The storyline is dull as dishwater but the tone is vibrant and dynamic - it's like 'Taken' but with more risks and style. 'John Wick' feels almost animated, as if it was an off-shoot of Reeves' work in 'A Scanner Darkly' blended with the slick precision of 'The Matrix'. Indeed, it's hard to imagine anyone else in the lead role.
With a supporting cast including the likes of Alfie Allen (as the Wick's target), Willem Dafoe (as a fellow hitman), John Leguizamo (as a chop shop owner), Michael Nyqvist (as the big bad), David Patrick Kelly (as a body clean-up man) and Ian McShane (as a mobster businessman), 'John Wick' is alight with star wattage.
All this from first time director Chad Stahelski who was previously best known as Keanu Reeves' stunt double in 'The Matrix' franchise. Speaking of franchises, this has enough legs and an interesting enough world to make genuinely interesting sequels with. Here's hoping we haven't seen the last of John Wick.