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People keep asking if I’m back and I haven’t really had an answer, but yeah, I’m thinking I’m back…
Keanu Reeves got a much-needed career boost with 2014’s sleeper hit John Wick. It’s a throwback to classic revenge films of the 80’s and 90’s, replete with a pumping electronic film score, expertly crafted fight scenes, and killer one-liners.
Reeves excels as a hit man hell-bent on payback after suffering a tragedy by associates of his former employer. The film also benefits from its colorful criminal underworld with their intriguing code and mythology.
As a child of the 70’s and 80’s, I grew up on a steady junk-food diet of such films, and still find them an enjoyable guilty pleasure. So, if you’re looking to explore other movies like John Wick, let’s look at some other films that serve up vengeance with a side of laughs to break the tension.
That woman deserves her revenge and we deserve to die…
Quentin Tarantino’s bookended classic features Uma Thurman as The Bride, an ex-assassin out to take down her ex-employer/lover Bill (David Carradine) after his team leaves her for dead on her wedding day.
Filled with Tarantino’s patented patter and over-the-top violence, it’s equal parts trash and treasure.
I hope you burn in hell for this…
Stellan Skarsgård stars as Nils, a Norwegian snowplow driver who discovers his son has died of a drug overdose.
Suspecting foul play, he searches for the men responsible, dispatching them in cold, workman-like fashion. A brisk black comedy with an over-the-top villain, it splits the difference between ruthless and hilarious.
There’s one thing I don’t understand. The thing I don’t understand is every motherfuckin’ word you’re saying…
Wilson (Terrence Stamp) is an elderly British ex-con off to L.A. to investigate the disappearance of his daughter, setting his sights on a lecherous music mogul (played by Peter Fonda).
Possessing a strength belying his age, he’ll find out the truth, no matter who dies in the process. It’s his stark demeanor in opulent Hollywood that brings out the film’s humorous moments.
You know what’s awful? Just ’cause my dad loved your mom… we all end up dead…
Fewer films have explored the real life implications of violence better than Blue Ruin. Dwight Evans (Macon Blair) seeks out the man who murdered his parents, but finds out too late that it’s the wrong guy.
It’s then a race against time to discover the truth behind his parent’s death. Evan’s lack of planning makes for moments of comedy and tragedy.
Boss ain’t gonna like this. What are we gonna tell him?
In this loving ode to 70’s grindhouse cinema, Machete (Danny Trejo) is a former Mexican Federale who finds his way to Texas, determined to have vengeance upon the drug lord (Stephen Seagal) who killed his wife and daughter.
But he must also evade and outwit corrupt racist politicians (led by Robert DeNiro), becoming a hero to illegal immigrants in the process.
You’re going to look pretty silly with that knife sticking out of your ass…
Eastwood directs and stars in this supernatural-tinged western, playing a man known only as ‘The Stranger.’ He’s a mysterious gunslinger who shows up unannounced in a small-town, offering his services.
The townsfolk happily oblige as they’re in desperate need of help, continually targeted by a group of ruthless bandits.
The Stranger’s ominous nature and unknown identity leads to a ‘Twilight Zone‘-style twist ending.
You know, I’d almost forgotten what your eyes looked like. Still the same. Pissholes in the snow…
Jack Carter (Michael Caine) is a tough mobster who goes off the deep end when he discovers his brother was murdered.
As soon as his sibling’s body is buried, he leaves a bloody trail to find his killer, no matter the consequence for his legacy and personal safety.
Now let’s explore some more exciting revenge films more serious in nature, as well as another Keanu Reeves action classic.
You’re a very bad man, Walker, a very destructive man! Why do you run around doing things like this?
Lee Marvin stars as Walker, a tough con-man left for dead after his friend steals his money and his wife.
He recovers, intent on getting back the cash and killing those who wronged him. But he gets more than he bargained for when he realizes there is a far bigger criminal underworld to contend with.
If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever…
Brandon Lee stars as Eric Draven, an undead spirit out to kill the men who murdered him and his wife.
This filmic adaptation of James O’Barr’s comic series gained a tragic poignancy when Lee died during filming.
I am the Nightrider. I’m a fuel injected suicide machine. I am the rocker, I am the roller, I am the out-of-controller!
This post-apocalyptic classic stars Mel Gibson as Max, a tough cop driven by murderous rage when a biker gang kills his wife and child.
Featuring jaw-dropping car chases in the bleak Australian outback, it spawned the sequels Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) and Beyond Thunder-dome, as well as upcoming reboot Mad Max: Fury Road starring Tom Hardy.
To deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human…
Since John Wick is Reeves’ best film since The Matrix, I felt it also deserved a mention.
The Matrix has been endlessly copied and suffered from some poor sequels, but it’s tale of a society threatened by sentient technology still holds weight. Plus, those bullet-time action sequences hold up nicely.
Well, 4 out of 5 doctors agree that I am actually insane…
This squirm-fest concerns Jeff (Patrick Wilson), a photographer who meets a teenager (Ellen Page) he flirted with in an online chat room. After she asks to go back to his place, things go bad.
She’s convinced he’s behind the disappearance of a local girl, and begins to torture him to unravel the truth. The guessing game of both their motives, her sanity, and Jeff’s guilt, make for an extremely tense and uncomfortable experience.
After a mute seamstress (Zoë Tamerlis Lund) is sexually assaulted twice in one day, she decides to take drastic action.
Fearing that all men are potential sexual predators, she goes on a killing spree. But her inability to determine friend from foe leads to a disturbing and tragic conclusion.
Ferrara’s film is a fever dream that never sacrifices emotions for genre thrills, with Lund fantastic as a woman pressed to the brink. Early 80’s ultra-seedy NYC makes for an apt supporting character.
You never can tell on a day like this- things could be goin’ jake one minute, then, presto- before you know it, you’re history…
John Wick co-star Willem Dafoe made his filmic debut in this stylish Biker movie from The Hurt Locker director, Katherine Bigelow.
Its barebones plot lifts much of its narrative from classic biker films like 1953’s The Wild One, but it makes a strong visual impact, with a fetishistic take on outlaw biker culture, whose violent and sexual behavior threatened repressed 1950’s social mores.
Instead, look ahead! I’ve covered a wide swath of revenge films, but there are many others to explore.
Now it’s your turn to contribute. What films like John Wick would you add to the mix?
Tell me in the comments.
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