Hasitha Fernando dives into ten John Wick-inspired movies to give you your action fix…
Every couple of years an action movie would come along that instantly becomes a gamechanger in the genre and the template to be followed for the next decade or so – John Wick was such a film. Released in 2014 the flick became that year’s sleeper hit going on to spawn multiple sequels and spinoffs in the process. But its biggest impact on the cinematic landscape was how it brought about a paradigm shift in action movie making in general, moving past the rapid-fire nausea of the Bourne era and the nonsensically overused slow-mo inspired by The Matrix.
Don’t get me wrong, both the latter and the former too were trendsetters of their time, but John Wick opened filmmakers up to a whole new world of possibilities and the things that they could accomplish. So, with John Wick – Chapter 4 behind us, here are ten movies to watch that were clearly inspired by John Wick.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
Atomic Blonde is without a doubt the actioner on this list most obviously influenced by the John Wick franchise. An exquisite masterpiece that impresses on multiple fronts, the film is headlined by none other than the gorgeous Charlize Theron who more than knows how to throw a punch. The movie, set in the backdrop of the Berlin Wall’s imminent collapse, follows top MI6 spy Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) as she combs Berlin with maverick station head David Percival (James McAvoy) to find a stolen list containing the names of covert operatives, on both sides of the conflict. Replete with neon washed exteriors, exquisite action sequences, stunning cinematography and a killer 80s soundtrack the movie not only reinforces Theron’s reputation as a bonafide action star, but also John Wick’s influence on the action genre.
If John Wick is the stylish, immaculately cut Italian suit you own, then Nobody is the greasy, throwaway rag tucked away in your garage. In a lot of ways, the movie functions as the very antithesis of all that is John Wick, but if you look past the grungy, down-and-dirty patina the similarities are impossible to ignore. Nobody centers around Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), a docile family man experiencing a mid-life crisis who goes on a bloody warpath against a local crime lord, after thieves burgle his residence. Written by John Wick franchise creator Derek Kolstad and helmed by Ilya Naishuller of Hardcore Henry fame, Nobody finds an unlikely hero in Odenkirk whilst delivering a viscerally violent affair that doesn’t pull its punches when shit starts hitting the ceiling.
The Foreigner (2017)
This slick politically charged action thriller based off of Stephen Leather’s 1992 novel The Chinaman, sees veteran Hong Kong martial arts superstar Jackie Chan squaring off against former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan. Both Chan and Brosnan deliver exemplary performances, playing brilliantly against type, which elevate the movie from its formulaic action roots and transforming it into a taut, suspenseful drama. Chan’s typical slapstick acrobatic antics are also eschewed in favor of a more hard-edged fighting style. And yet, all these disparate elements come together in stunning fashion to give us a solid old-school actioner which is certainly a cut above the usual generic drivel.
This ultraviolent revenge flick headlined by the ever-alluring Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a little bit of everything thrown into the mix. Apart from the abundantly obvious John Wick influence, there is a sprinkle of Die Hard and even a dash of Kill Bill, which makes for a rather incendiary brew. In it a world class assassin Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), gets poisoned during her final mission which sends her down a path of blood-soaked vengeance to find the perpetrators. Of course, the storyline is pretty basic but if eye-popping visuals and adrenaline fueling action is what you are looking for, reach out for this one.
Guns Akimbo (2019)
Guns Akimbo is what you’d get if Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and John Wick crossed paths and had a stark-raving-mad love child. A wacky, technicolored Loony Toons-esque dark action comedy, the movie is led by none other than Harry Potter alum Daniel Radcliffe and Aussie horror queen Samara Weaving. Radcliffe plays a snarky online troll who gets unwittingly dragged into a dangerous real-life death match, where he becomes the next person of interest. Yes, the film is as nuts as it sounds but that’s just the half of it. You’ll need to see it in order to believe it.
Bullet Train (2022)
The second film in this list directed by David Leitch (the first being Atomic Blonde), Bullet Train is based upon the black comedy Japanese novel Maria Beetle. The story concerns an assassin plagued by bad luck who must retrieve a briefcase full of cash located in a bullet train, occupied by various unsavory characters also interested in said package. The story is filled with unexpected twists, double crossings, mistaken identities, and excessive violence but it’s the stunningly composed symphony of hyperkinetic action set pieces that’ll ultimately have you grinning from ear to ear. Plus, did I mention Brad Pitt plays the lead? Yeah, there’s that too.
Extraction maybe a far cry from John Wick, from an aesthetical perspective, but it is still very much cut from the same richly woven fabric. Instead of grand gothic architecture and candy colored neon lights, we are given humid tropics, dirty alleyways, and a dusty urban backdrop. Oh yeah, and the very best in weapon wielding villainy. Thor heartthrob Chris Hemsworth effortlessly slides into the role of burly black-market mercenary Tyler Rake, who has been tasked with rescuing a kidnapped child. Simply put it is a movie that does what it says on the cover – Hemsworth kicking ass and taking names.
After the mixed reception his recent sci-fi ventures received, writer/director Luc Besson decided to return to his tried-and-proven action film roots once again with Anna. Besson doesn’t quite achieve the desired outcome, but there’s still a lot to like in this nifty little action thriller which’ll more than satisfy fans of the genre. Model turned actress Sasha Luss is simply electrifying as the titular femme fatale, and she’s ably supported by an ensemble cast of heavy hitters which include the likes of Cillian Murphy, Helen Mirren, and Luke Evans. Le Femme Nikita this maybe not, but Anna still packs quite a punch.
Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)
Ever wondered what John Wick with chicks would look like? Well, this is it. From the neon infused backdrops to the hyper stylized action, Gunpowder Milkshake could easily be a part of the Wick-verse due to the striking aesthetic similarities. Of course, it doesn’t have the brilliant world building that the John Wick franchise has, but it does benefit from a stacked female cast who bring their A-game to the proceedings. This gun toting sisterhood consists of – Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett, and Carla Gugino – and boy oh boy, when they all come together it’s like the Fourth of July on crack.
I think we can all agree that whatever Mads Mikkelsen touches pretty much turns to gold. I mean the guy can transform even the most mundane of roles into something worth watching, so it’s pretty much a given that his involvement in this neo-noir Netflix thriller would lead to a favorable outcome. Adapted from the 2013 graphic novel of the same name, Polar sees Duncan Vizla, a retired assassin (Mads Mikkelsen) hunted by his former employer to cash in on his pension earnings. It’s a silly premise sure, but the wacky over-the-top violence is executed (pun intended) with enough style and panache to make this one bloody entertaining ride.
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.