In a cinematic environment where The Expendables and The Hunger Games are considered the pinnacle of the action genre, John Wick provides a confident and straight to the point reminder of what action films are supposed to be like. Avoiding the pratfalls of modern action flicks, John Wick makes choreographing a visceral 90 minutes of pure adrenaline seem effortless.

The film works so well because, when it comes down to it, John Wick is everything an action film needs to be. Brutal, exhilarating and pulsing along at a blistering pace, John Wick comes to life while you're watching it, always throwing something your way that will make your laugh, cry or even squirm in your seat. Whether it's photographing a confined melee or an expansive shootout, every frame in the picture feels deliberate and purposeful in emphasising the explosive on-screen violence. But perhaps most importantly, with its colourful aesthetic and sharp sense of humour, John Wick bursts with a personality and warmth that's lost in so many mechanical and robotic modern action films.

The difference between having a stuntman over an actual actor perform the fights and falls in movies may seem like a negligible difference on paper, but the sheer amount of immersion that's gained by seeing the real actor performing real physical stunts on screen is absolutely imperative when it comes to the action genre. A veteran of these kinds of movies, Keanu Reeves' dedication to the stunt-work and choreography required to sell a film like this is in a league of its own, and without an actor as committed to the role as much as Reeves' is here, the entire film would have lost a great deal of its violent charm.

In an era of obnoxious and disorientating shaky can, John Wick instead opts to keep the camera focused directly on the action. Not only does a straight-forward and minimal shooting style keep a sense of coherence from shot to shot and beat to beat, but the long takes and lack of cutting keeps the action following in a natural and progressive manner. Unlike other action films, there's a sense of progression and escalation in John Wick that's executed superbly by its simple camera work; giving the audience a large sense of special awareness, the film not only keeps us engrossed in the action, but the minimalist technique embodies every cut and close-up with a sense of purpose and meaning that wordlessly and brilliantly communicates the underlying meaning and thematics of each scene.

However John Wick's cinematography isn't simply impressive because of its sophisticated combat, but rather the entire film boasts a unique and inspired thematic aesthetic. Whether it's vibrant and pulsating nightclubs or dank and run-down warehouses, John Wick always manages to keep its scenes visually interesting by never repeating the same thing twice. When your film is basically 90 minutes of headshots and breaking bones, there's a good chance you could bore the audience very quickly if you're not careful, but John Wick keeps every scene so stylistically interesting that you won't find yourself checking your phone even once during its runtime. By boasting such gorgeous and inspired cinematography, graphic violence and brutal takedowns have never looked so picturesque.

Likewise, the invigorating action would be meaningless if there wasn't any kind of emotional investment in the movie, but thankfully John Wick does enough to keep each scene fresh and engaging with an emotional core that ties each scene nicely together. While the plot is simple, the movie manages to communicate much of its larger ideas and world-building through simple images and storytelling techniques. Although the minimalist style of both the characters and settings could have made for a samey or bland experience, John Wick fortunately pulls off this risky visual style by creating distinct and memorable combat arenas. Even Wick himself, played by the towering Keanu, dressed all in black with long black hair and beard, is shot in such a way that renders his image as distinct and as memorable as any action movie icon before him.

Ultimately, when it comes to modern action films, it seems that 2011's The Raid and John Wick both provide the perfect double act to show off just what the genre is capable of. Both beautifully choreographed and viscerally edited, these movies can be seen as distillations of every essential aspect of the action genre filtered down to its core ingredients. If you're looking for an action film that bursts with passion and skill then there's simply nothing on the market as interesting, as exhilarating, or as brutal as John Wick.