Action cinema has been in a strange place of late. For years Bourne cast a clear shadow over it, as bone crunching, face smacking and general ass kicking became decidedly more intimate. It was the evolution of an expensive, but fun genre that had always relied on the style of its predecessors for guidance.
Before 'Bourne' we had countless flicks attempting to replicate the "bullet time" action of 'The Matrix'. While that film is crucial here (not only does it have the same star, but his stunt double directs), it couldn't be more different. 'John Wick' is a straight up revenge tale, and the best mainstream American action movie for damn near a decade.
Reeves is the titular Wick, who we meet as he's burying the love of his life - a wife who died from natural causes. Mere hours after the funeral he's sent a final gift by his wife - a cute dog. Bonding quickly with the pooch, on his very first outdoor excursion with him he bumps into some grubby Russian wrongins', has an altercation of sorts and then goes home. That night, the same group break into his house, steal his car and kill his dog.
What they didn't know is that John Wick was one of the most feared men in the criminal underworld - until he decided to quit for the love of his now deceased wife. Killing his dog took away the last thing she ever did for him. So now he's going to fuck every single one of them up (in a highly entertaining manner) and he's not going to stop until they're all dead.
There really is beauty in simplicity. This is a film that makes no bones what it's intentions are; its plot is simple and may very well be an excuse for the action to take place. But it works, and it works, well, beautifully.
From the get go you're completely on Wick's side. He's grieving - quietly like all macho action stars should - but with Reeves playing him there's another layer; something that goes beyond 'angry man' and is surprisingly emotive. It's easily amongst his finest work and his casting is perfect.
Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (working as an uncredited co-director) know their genre; but not just that, they also respect it. While the frantic, blood soaked and utterly glorious action will have you amped, trying desperately to take it all in as it happens, it's grounded in a place you can relate to - with a heap of cool shit added in.
See it on a big screen, then go home and arrange to see it with someone who hasn't so you can enjoy their reaction.
Pure popcorn cinema at its absolute finest.