2014. Directed by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch.
Less is More.
Remember that mantra when you strap in for John Wick, the antidote to the modern watered down, "Let's Blow Sh*t Up!", toilet humor, cardboard cut out action films that currently plague the box office on virtually every Friday night.
John Wick is a legendary assassin who gave it up for love. He's brought back into the breach after a viscous home invasion leaves a loved one dead. WARNING: This scene will hit you in the heart like a shotgun.
From there, we're off and we're gleefully helpless voyeurs as Wick paints the town red in his quest for vengeance.
Less is More. The script is lean and nasty, There's virtually nothing of excess. Cold and calculated like the prolific killers that haunt its nameless city. The most interesting facet of the spartan tale is the world it builds. A world with a society of contract killers who deal in ancient coins as currency. Where body disposal teams are on speed dial and a neutral ground hotel is at the center, where "business" is expressly against the rules.
The cinematography by Jonathan Seta is a marvel. From neon blues and reds in nightclubs to warm human colors in Wick's home, every frame is visceral. You can almost smell the cordite as the shells hit the floor.
This brings me to the fight scenes. It has been a long time since an action film like this has been made. A bullet power ballad (not opera!) that rifts and pulsates with every gunshot, every knife wound, and every broken bone. The choreography is gasp worthy, with Keanu Reeves doing most of the heavy lifting himself. The amount of training he put into preparing for this role is to be envied and hopefully replicated by every major action star henceforth.
The cast is also amazing. A packed ship with Reeves, the always brutal Ian McShane, the venerably twisted Willem Dafoe, the femme fatale Adrianne Pallicki, the always solid Clarke Peters, the hilarious Dean Winters, the ultimate ally John Leguizamo, and the legendary "I let him go" David Patrick Kelly.
This film's existence is owed to Reeves himself. He reached out to the directors, whom he worked with on The Matrix and essentially ensured that this film would be in their capable hands.
No social commentary. No morality tale. Less is More. A good friend regards this film as a "minimalist, transcendental masterpiece" and it's impossible deny.
Marliyn Manson's addicting song "Killing Strangers" is the thread that ties this film together and the one I'll end on:
"We don't need no opera, we need it for the operation!"
Available on Amazon, Vudu, & Itunes for streaming rental.