Calling John Wick a throwback to 1980s action films feels like a disservice to both parties. It's true that directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski have a crafted a no-nonsense revenge bruiser where raindrops and bodies fall from the sky. But the ghoulish neon color scheme and close-contact gun-fu are more in line with the work of Hong Kong masters like John Woo than any directorial mercenary who captured the talents of Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Second chances are taken, not given, in John Wick, a formally audacious shoot-first thriller about a former hit man (Keanu Reeves) who exacts mass revenge against a Russian crime syndicate after three of their members kill his dog. The cute beagle was a gift from his dying wife (Bridget Moynahan in the briefest of roles), a symbol of their ongoing puppy love that's so corny, it only makes sense in a movie as barren and rugged as this.
One of the Eastern-bloc ruffians is the son of Wick's former boss (Michael Nyqvist), a reserved but calculating demon who understands the storm of bloodshed that's about to get unleashed on his organization. John Wick lends an otherworldly quality to the criminal landscape of the city; assassins working contracts stay in the same classy hotel where killing is off limits. The rest of the world is their oyster. A treasure trove of withered character actors get wonderful moments in the shadows, including Ian McShane as the hotel proprietor and David Patrick Kelly as a creepy disposer of bodies.
John Wick—which opens Friday, Oct. 24—can't sustain its raging pace, but the film affords action junkies multiple brazen set pieces that bulldoze posh urban spaces with creative carnage.
Here, a pistol or knife becomes an extension of a man's hands, ready to reach out and touch someone.
Birdman: A burnt-out superhero actor (Michael Keaton) tries to mount a play on Broadway in order to prove his worth. It co-stars Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and Andrea Riseborough. See our review on Page 78.
The Blue Room: In this sensual French thriller from director Mathieu Amalric, lust turns to murder when a suburban husband is suspected of killing his lover.
The Conformist: Mussolini's Italy becomes a stage for betrayal, desire and sexuality in Bernardo Bertolucci's Italian masterpiece. Screens through Oct. 30 at the Ken Cinema.
Dear White People: Four black students must deal with the ramifications of an ill-conceived theme party that turns their Ivy League campus into a hotbed for racial controversy.
Hiroshima Mon Amor: Alain Resnais' first film follows a French actor who's filming an anti-war film in Hiroshima and falls in love with a Japanese architect. Screens through Oct. 30 at the Ken Cinema.
John Wick: After his dog is killed in a random break-in, a former hit man (Keanu Reeves) goes on the warpath looking for vengeance. See our review on Page 78.
Ouija: Board game meet cinema.
Somos Mari Pepa: Young Mexican punk rockers try to make it big despite their changing interests as a group. Screens through Oct. 30 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
St. Vincent: A misanthropic senior citizen (Bill Murray) befriends a young boy going through familial trouble, inevitably leading to redemption for all involved.
One Time Only
The Bit Player: A satirical look at the Filipino entertainment industry, this film revolves around a day in the life of a single mom trying to make it as a soap-opera bit player. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, at the Mission Valley Library.
The Man Who Knew Too Much: In Alfred Hitchcock's remake of his own film, James Stewart and Doris Day play a happy couple who are vacationing in Morocco when they accidentally discover an assassination plot. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: A madman controls a somnambulist and uses his power to murder unsuspecting people in a small German town in the Alps. Screens at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, at The Whaley House in Old Town.
Hocus Pocus: Three witches come back to life and turn Salem, Massachusetts, into a hoot-hollering good time. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Little Shop of Horrors: Rick Moranis stars as a nerdy florist who achieves success thanks to a giant man-eating plant. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, at Arclight La Jolla.
Shaun of the Dead: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star as slacker buddies trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Rear Window: Look out your window and see the world for what it is: Alfred Hitchcock's menacing universe filled with everyday murderers. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, at Reading Town Square Cinemas in Clairemont.
Becoming California: Narrated by Jane Fonda, this epic documentary looks at the geologic origins of California and the impact humans have made on the environment. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.
Psycho: Mother knows best for Norman Bates. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, through Saturday, Oct. 25, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Only Lovers Left Alive: Vampires have feelings too in Jim Jarmusch's moody meditation on life, love and longing. Screens at midnight on Friday, Oct. 24, at the Ken Cinema.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Come experience the crazed imaginings of this insane camp classic about a couple who wander upon the wrong house one dark and stormy night. Screens at midnight on Saturday, Oct. 25, at the Ken Cinema and at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Girl on the Train: A complacent filmmaker meets a mysterious woman on a train, and his whole life drops into a tailspin. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27, at the San Diego Public Library in East Village.
Ilo, Ilo: The Asian economic crisis hits a family of three and threatens to undo all of their hard work. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, at the Point Loma / Hervey Branch Library.
No Evidence of Disease: Six oncologists form a band to bring attention to women's cancers. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, and Wednesday, Oct. 29, at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Mexican Suitcase: A riveting documentary that looks at the story behind the 4,500 pictures taken by master photographers during the Spanish Civil War. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Comic Warriors: Veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars work with comedy veterans to work through their traumatic experiences. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 29, at the David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre at the Jewish Community Center in La Jolla.
Aqui Entre Nos: In this rambunctious comedy from Mexico, a bitter father wakes up one day and decides he'll no longer support his family until his wife stops mistreating him. Ends Oct. 23 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Default: An American news crew gets hijacked on a runway in Africa and must band together to survive in this thriller starring David Oyelowo. Ends Oct. 22 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Fury: A surly tank commander (Brad Pitt) and his small crew fend off Nazis during the waning days of World War II.
Lilting: In this drama from Hong Khaou, a Cambodian-Chinese mother in contemporary London mourns the death of her son and meets a stranger. Ends Oct. 23 at the Ken Cinema.
Men, Women & Children: Jason Reitman's new ensemble drama starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Gardner looks at the way human interaction has changed in the Internet age.
The Best of Me: Former high-school sweethearts fall in love again after they reunite many years later while visiting their small hometown.
The Book of Life: This animated fantasy follows a young man who's torn between fulfilling his family duties and following his heart. It features the voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana and Channing Tatum.
The Good Lie: Three refuges from Sudan travel to America hoping to find a better life but instead encounter a vastly different world with new and unique obstacles.
The Green Prince: Based on Mosab Hassan Yousef's bestselling memoir Son of Hamas, this documentary exposes a complex world of terror, betrayal and impossible choices within one of the world's most dangerous terrorist organizations. Ends Oct. 23 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
Life Inside Out: Music plays a crucial role during the healing process for a mother and her troubled son. Ends Oct. 23 at UltraStar Cinemas in Mission Valley.
San Diego Italian Film Festival: A diverse collection of Italian films, gala events and engaging discussions that runs through Oct. 25 at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
Whiplash: A sadistic music teacher tortures a young drummer at a posh New York City conservatory.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: A boy lives through a calamitous day, and the bad luck spreads to his other family members.
Dracula Untold: This will suck.
Kill the Messenger: An investigative reporter (Jeremy Renner) exposes the CIA's involvement in arming the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, only to find himself the victim of a smear campaign. Ends Oct. 23 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
Meet the Mormons: Six members of the Church of Latter Day Saints are profiled in this documentary that spans the globe.
One Chance: Paul Potts, a shy, bullied shop assistant, goes on to become an amateur opera singer and winner of Britain's Got Talent. It's based on a true story.
Pride: A newly minted LGBT group lends support to striking Welsh miners in this charming fish-out-of-water 1984-set dramedy from the United Kingdom.
The Judge: Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) returns to his childhood home to defend his embittered father (Robert Duvall), the town's judge, who's been accused of murder.
Annabelle: The creepy murderous doll from The Conjuring gets its own prequel.
Gone Girl: David Fincher adapts Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel with Ben Affleck in the lead as the suspicious husband whose beautiful wife (Rosamund Pike) suddenly goes missing.
Left Behind: Nicolas Cage does his best Kirk Cameron in this reimagining of the famous rapture novels from Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
The Human Body: This amazing IMAX adventure goes inside the human body to explore the many dynamic changes that occur as we age. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Boxtrolls: An evil exterminator threatens a community of cave-dwelling trash collectors who've raised a young, orphaned boy as their own.
The Equalizer: Denzel Washington takes names and kicks ass in this remake of the 1980s television show.
My Old Lady: Kevin Kline plays an American who inherits an apartment in Paris that houses a mysterious resident. It co-stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith.
The Maze Runner: In this science-fiction film, a community of boys tries to escape an elaborate maze after being kidnapped and having their minds erased.
The Skeleton Twins: Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig play estranged twins who reunite after both escape death on the same day. Ends Oct. 23 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
This is Where I Leave You: Four grown siblings are forced to return home after their father passes away and states in his will that they must all live under the same roof for a week. It stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda.
The November Man: Pierce Brosnan returns to super-spy duty, this time as a top CIA assassin facing off against his best protégé.
Guardians of the Galaxy: American pilot Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his rowdy alien crew become objects of a manhunt after stealing a valuable orb that belongs to a diabolical space villain.
Hidden Universe: Blast off into the stratosphere with this documentary that uses real images captured from telescopes to examine the vast reaches of space. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Journey to the South Pacific: Let the glorious scale of IMAX take you to the tropical islands of West Papua, where life under the sea is just as lush and vibrant as it is on shore. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.