John Wick spoilers lie within...
Not since Ryan Gosling made violence look so sexy in Drive has there been a neon-drenched, blood-splattered action flick as seductively stylish as John Wick, the Keanu Reeves comeback vehicle in which bullets go off like party poppers at a kid's birthday party.
Just in case your memory needs refreshing, John Wick is a retired contract killer who can't resist the allure of the life he left behind in the wake of his wife's death. The murder of the puppy given to him by the dead wife in question drives Wick to embark on a crusade of vengeance.
Keanu might not be the hottest property in Hollywood these days, but on a modest $20m budget the film was a huge success. Why? Because at a time when straight-up, violent, stunt-heavy but CGI-light action films have been few on the ground, John Wick gave the audience for that genre exactly what they want: gangsters, quotable dialogue, glorious, prolonged action sequences.
Like this unforgettable sequence in Viggo's club, the Red Circle...
I know you remember this one. Here are four reasons it tore the roof off...
1. The soundtrack
The contrast between the soft electronica of the soundtrack and Wick coolly sliding a knife into the chest of a henchman sets up the scene beautifully.
2. The colours
Red Circle seems like the most pretentious club in the world, and you can bet your ass they charge 18 dollars for a whisky sour, but it also looks fresh as hell. As we learned from Drive, there really is no such thing as too much neon.
3. The combat
Ultimately fight scenes are about damage being done, and John Wick never even pauses to think about his next move. It's instinctive. He doesn't seem to value his own life much, which makes him incredibly dangerous to those guys who did a number on him. The combat in this scene is seriously intense.
4. The one who got away
Look, fight scenes are boring if everybody gets killed. For a mass shootout to entertain, somebody other than the villain needs to make it out alive, which is why a nearly-naked Theon Greyjoy - conveniently still wrapped in his towel - manages to evade Wick in the above gif. Always leave the audience wanting more.
John Wick 2: Bigger and better?
John Wick 2 is due to land at some point in 2016, having started shooting in October. Ian McShane and John Leguizamo are both returning, with Ruby Rose joining the cast as a "female crime lord". Set pics have revealed scar make-up on Rose's face, just to signpost the fact that she's a legit badass.
The question is: Can the second film take what we loved about the first and go even bigger, even bloodier, even more brilliantly old-school in its approach to action? Or will it fall prey to the curse of the unnecessary sequel?
Not every film gets it as right as John Wick. Page Six reports that first-time indie filmmaker Gee Malik Linton, who directed another upcoming Keanu thriller, Exposed, demanded that the studio credit him instead as an alias, "Declan Dale", because he was so dissatisfied with the final cut of his movie.
The truth is, making an action film as entertaining as John Wick really isn't as easy as it looks. If the sequel can do it again, we might be witnessing the birth of an epic new action franchise. Fingers crossed...