RAD SCREENINGS pay tribute to the art of the action movie this March with a John Wick double bill. Directed by stuntman turned director, Chad Stahelski these handsome actioners have formed some of the multiplex highlights of the past few years.
John Wick boils the action-revenge-thriller down to its bare bones, revealing the skeletal structure only to reengineer it with a winking honesty and thrilling grace. The film does away with the queasily manipulative portent of say, Luc Besson’s Taken’s abducted daughter and CIA training, replacing them with a dead dog and a patently comic book world featuring a secret society of assassins. The audience is treated to action for actions sake, stripped back so far as to be almost theoretical – the pleasures of the film aren’t to be found in twisted catharsis or nasty, bloodthirsty vengeance, but in the choreography and elegant poise of the its star, Keanu Reeves.
From Bill and Ted to The Matrix, Keanu Reeves has always been a physical actor; putting as much of his body into his stoners as his martial artists. Even remembering his elastic turn as Neo in the Matrix films or his charged undercover-surfer in Point Break, Reeves’ performances as the titular, highly trained assassin in the John Wick series could be argued to be the high point of the actor’s career as an action star. He moves through the films like an electric locomotive, quietly whirring through his foes with a pair of silenced pistols. In an age of quick cuts, shaky cameras and city-threatening bombast, the restraint and focus on visual coherence are very welcome.
To its detriment, John Wick Chapter 2 elaborates and complicates the mythology hinted at in the first film, removing some of the narrative minimalism that worked so well. Crucially though, the film maintains the kinetic elegance and memorable set-pieces that made its predecessor so beloved. Borrowing from all of the right places, Stahelski has said that he takes inspiration from the classical stylings of Akira Kurosawa, Hong Kong bullet ballets and John Boorman’s Point Blank. We’re excited to see what he does next, but in the meantime, you can enjoy his first two films back to back at Gorilla this March.