Now that John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum has taken the box office by storm and already has a guaranteed, scheduled follow-up coming out in 2 years, it's pretty clear that this franchise is still connecting with fans in a way that nobody could really have expected back when the first John Wick was getting ready to hit theaters back in 2014. That's good news for Lionsgate, the filmmakers, and of course star Keanu Reeves, whose image has (once again) been reinvented by the success of the films.
But it also means that there are passionate and excited fans who now have to wait two whole years for more Wick. So what should they watch in the meantime? Well, lucky for you folks, you have ComicBook.com. I talked to Zach Roberts, one of my co-hosts from the Emerald City Video Podcast (a show hosted by former video store employees, where we talk about movies), and we came up with a list of movies that fans of John Wick would probably enjoy (a bunch of which we have talked about on the show before, so enjoy some of the editorializing).
Remember back when you used to go to your neighborhood video store and there were "If you like this, try these" signs on the new release wall? Think of this as the 21st Century version of that, and let us know in the comments if we missed any particularly good choices.
Reeves is, of course, at his action-hero best in the first Matrix movie, and its two sequels do their best to spotlight his talents, even though their scripts are not nearly as sharp as the first one -- or as the John Wick sequels for that matter.
Still, it is difficult to imagine a better jumping-on point for fans of John Wick who haven't seen The Matrix, or (like many of us) haven't sat down to rewatch it in years.
Mel Gibson tears through the underworld in order to find justice and get a relatively small amount of money owed to him, astounding everyone he runs into and baffling the mob bosses when they realize exactly how much he is risking for how little.
It's one of Gibson's last great action-hero roles, and has some great performances by Gregg Henry (Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Lightning) and a very young Lucy Liu.
This movie gives the chase and fight scenes in John Wick a run for its money, but also manages to deal with a segment of organized crime and terror that is almost as hidden to a lot of American audiences as the secret world buried within the Wick films: The conflict in Northern Ireland.
"A lot of Americans aren't familiar with the issues of Northern Ireland; they're familiar with the issues of ISIS and al Quaeda and eveyrthing else," screenwriter David Some people even took offense that I was even dealing with the IRA, but listen, there are a lot of boogeymen in the world and not every one of them has to be the ones we're seeing on TV every day."
In the film, Jackie Chan plays a former spy whose daughter is killed in a random bombing of a public space, and he has to figure out who is to blame. This brings him into conflict with a character played by Pierce Brosnan, a former IRA bomber who has "gone straight" and is now a member of Parliament.
Ever wonder what General Zod (Terence Stamp) would have been like, had he harnessed all of that pent up rage for good? Or, at least, for not-quite-evil? That's The Limey, in which Stamp plays an elderly ex-con out to murder the man he believes is responsible for the death of his daughter.
The movie is perhaps best known for a single, intensely meme-able moment, in which Wilson (Stamp) decides to send a message to some men who work for his target...
(Fair warning, it's an R-rated movie for violence and language.
A grimy, sci-fi version of a distinctly John Wick-like fighting style, Upgrade centers on a man who is paralyzed during an attack that also leads to the death of his wife. Desperate to return to some semblance of a normal life and determined to get revenge on those who have wronged him, he works with a corporate executive who can offer him an AI that will let him walk again -- and fight, and everything else, all with the speed and tirelessness of a machine -- but things aren't all that simple.
A great performance by Logan Marshall Green makes us hope this one still gets a sequel or TV adaptation, both things that have been rumored at various points since the initial release.
In a Mexico City wracked by a recent wave of kidnappings, ex-CIA operative John Creasy (Denzel Washington) reluctantly accepts a job as a bodyguard for 9-year-old Lupita (Dakota Fanning), the daughter of wealthy businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony). Just as Creasy begins to develop a fondness for the young girl, a bloodthirsty gunman (Jesús Ochoa) kidnaps her. Now, Creasy must pick off a succession of corrupt cops and criminals to reach his ultimate object of vengeance.
Yeah, this one has a lot of comedic elements, but it is also a winning leading man with a lot of range stepping into the role of a hitman who has had it with the life and just wants to settle down with the woman he loves. When the life won't let him say good-bye, he has to go on one last job -- with the competition and the law both one step behind him the whole time.
For something where the violence is a bit more on par with John Wick, you can also check out War, Inc. It's a social satire with some truly bizarre elements, but it also features stylized violence and a power structure designed to challenge the way the audience sees the world. And Cusack has said in the past that it's about as close as fans are ever going to get to a spiritual sequel to Grosse Pointe Blank.
Léon: The Professional introduced the world to a young Natalie Portman (even younger than when Moby was apparently hitting on her!), and mainstreamed Jean Reno for American audiences. The result was a surprisingly winning movie in spite of dealing with some pretty dark stuff.
In the film, Mathilda (Natalie Portman) is only 12 years old, but is already familiar with the dark side of life: her abusive father stores drugs for corrupt police officers, and her mother neglects her. Léon (Jean Reno), who lives down the hall, tends to his houseplants and works as a hired hitman for mobster Tony (Danny Aiello). When her family is murdered by crooked DEA agent Stansfield (Gary Oldman), Mathilda joins forces with a reluctant Léon to learn his deadly trade and avenge her family's deaths.
This movie, which just came out on Blu-ray and DVD this week, is a weird inclusion and, like Grosse Pointe Blank, doesn't take its subject matter entirely seriously. Still, it's a good inclusion because, like so many of the films Liam Neeson has done in his advanced years, it centers on a guy who is basically indestructible mowing down a truly improbable number of people with a single-minded commitment.
In fact, according to DoesTheDogDie.com, which I swear to God is a real website and not something I made up, a dog is killed in each of the three classic Mad Max films -- although it doesn't happen in Fury Road, which is probably why that one was nominated for an Oscar.
We gotta ask -- is Mel Gibson a cat person?
Like Wick, The Bride is the kind of figure who makes herself an easy target for the people she's up against in that she is the best of the best and everyone in her "industry" knows it and wants to make a name for themselves by being the one to take her down. And, like Wick, she can do anything from gun fights to sword fights to fist fights and basically never stop until the other guy (or lady) is on the ground.