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john_wick_header“You stole my car… and you killed my dog!” intones the titular character of John Wick,  a lean, stylish revenge thriller showcasing Keanu Reeves at his most inscrutable and graceful; Charles Bronson meets Fred Astaire meets Pacific Island handsomeness reminding us of his considerable reputation within the action genre, namely starring in the likes of Point Break, Speed and The Matrix films.

 With Mr Reeves now something of a veteran at the age of 50 after three decades of acting in the movies, this reputation mirrors that of John Wick himself somewhat, an esteemed ad lethal professional killer, his past deeds referred to in hushed tones and fearful glances by the denizens of a self-contained criminal universe concocted by co-directors Brad Leitch, Chad Stahelski with screenwriter David Kolstad.

 As stated, one incident springs the formerly morose killer into action and roughly 70% of the movie is a lithe, stylishly attired Keanu dispatching justice with extreme force and little hesitation. John Wick is as straight ahead as any revenge film worth its salt. A basic set-up, minimal characterisation and then let the blood and bullets fly.

Revenge has been the basic stuff of drama for an age but although vengeance often fuels the plots of comic book movies (Batman for example) and horror franchises (friday the 13th et al) nothing compares to the pure, disreputable rush of a well made revenge picture appealing as it does to our basest instincts and fantasies, revealing uncomfortable truths about our primitive shadow selves and often placing us in the protagonists shoes, making us identify with them.

So i have selected  what I feel are ten revenge films worth seeing, replete with retribution, violent shenanigans and sharks! I have attempted to avoid the obvious genre choices, namely 50% of Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre but have probably failed in this goal. You be the judge. Jury. executioner.

1. Death Wish (1974) Dir – Michael Winner

Probably the daddy of ’em all, Michael Winners career meal ticket casts stone faced Charles Bronson as an architect (!) whose wife is murdered and daughter raped by a gang of depraved inner city types. When the wimpy legal system fails to bring this 70’s brand of new york vermin to justice, ol’ charlie boy decides to use his initiative and become an unofficial civilian vigilante and dispense some righteous violence. Followed by several putrid sequels, though death wish 3 has plenty of unintentional entertainment value. I think I may be correct in saying that winner never made another decent or watchable movie again, becoming a much hated, snobbish restaurant critic in his final years as opposed to a much hated film director.