The name John Wick seems to send shivers down the spine of anyone who utters it in Chad Stahelski’s impressively lean and wry thriller, and it’s not long before we see why. A grieving ex-hitman brought out of retirement by the triple loss of his wife, his car and his new puppy, Wick is a killing machine who takes a no-nonsense approach to despatching his assailants, and he’s a perfect role for Keanu Reeves, whose deadpan delivery makes the most of the surprisingly amusing script.
At heart, John Wick is a standard revenge narrative, but some key artistic choices elevate and distinguish the film from what might have been dully familiar fare. The clean, composed camerawork and sharp editing maximises the impact of the skilfully choreographed action, but the most striking aspect of John Wick is how the filmmakers vividly and wittily create a whole underworld for Wick to operate in. That underworld includes a nightclub called The Red Circle, and Jean-Pierre Melville would surely have approved of this film's stripped-down yet elegant style. [Philip Concannon]