John Wick Trilogy

"You a dog person, John?"

I'm one of the many people who overlooked John Wick when it first came out in 2014.

At the time it didn't seem to be any different from all the other low budget, generic action movies starring middle-aged actors playing middle-aged former cops/spies/assassins who go on a blood rampage of revenge after some evil Eastern Europeans (it's always evil Eastern Europeans) do something horrible to their wife/daughter/female friend/random friendly prostitute they just met. It looked like it was going to be just another Taken or Equalizer so I gave it a pass. Not sure what it was that eventually made me watch it, but when I did I instantly slapped myself across the back of the head for not seeing it sooner.

The John Wick trilogy is arguably the best action franchise of the last decade. Forget all the Marvel and Fast & Furious movies, this is the real good shit right here. I can't think of the last time any action series was able to maintain this consistent level of high quality with its first three films. Admittedly, they're all rather light when it comes to plot, but I see that as one of the series' strengths rather than its weaknesses.

Chapter 1: Bad guys steal retired hitman's car and kill his dog. Retired hitman shows restraint and kills 77 people in retaliation.

Chapter 2: Bad guys force retired hitman into carrying out one last job and then double cross him. Retired hitman kills 116 people in retaliation.

Chapter 3: Entire global assassin community tries to kill retired hitman for killing bad guys in the previous film. Retired hitman teams up with fellow dog lover and kills 164 people in retaliation.



The success of the first film marked the beginning of what Honest Trailers dubbed the Keanussance, which is like the McConaissance only better because people actually like Keanu Reeves, and cemented the One's place as the definitive action star of his generation. I mean, who else has a CV that includes Point Break, SpeedThe Matrix, and three John Wick films? The role of John Wick, former mob hitman turned spirit of puppy vengeance, is one perfectly suited to Reeves' talents, allowing him to do as little talking and emoting as possible while showing off his total commitment to doing the majority of his own stunts and not in an annoyingly smug way like Tom Cruise.

All three have been directed by Chad Stahelski with an uncredited David Leitch helping out on the first one. Stahelski previously worked as a stuntmen and stunt coordinator and was Reeve's stunt double on The Matrix trilogy. Knowing his background it's no surprise that the John Wick films shun flashy camera tricks and quick editing in favour of long takes that show off all the beautiful fight choreography and stunt work. As the films have become more successful and the budgets increased, the fight scenes have gotten bigger, more inventive, and more frequent. The first hour of Chapter 3 is almost non-stop action as the film becomes one relentless chase movie.



The makers of these films understand that these type of films are inherently ludicrous, but rather than shy away from that, they embrace it with gusto. So where another film would've stopped at John's former employers being generic Russian gangsters, this series makes them part of a vast secret society of criminals and assassins, who have their own global hotel chain, the Continental, that offers them sanctuary (no business can be conducted on its grounds) and caters to their every need (be it clean up crews or medical aid). All for the price of a shiny gold coin. With each instalment this world expands, becoming more and more absurd, but also more alluring so that when the shooting does finally stop you're more than happy to just sit back, relax and hang out in this neon assassin wonderland. Special mention must go to DPs Jonathan Sela (Chapter 1) and Dan Laustsen (Chapters 2 and 3), who ensure that everything looks as slick and stylish as one of John's tailored bulletproof suits.

This insane assassin underworld is full to the brim with colourful characters played by well known faces, many of who are just putting in a quick cameo and clearly having a blast while they do it. Standouts include Ian McShane as Winston, the manager of the New York Continental; Reeves' old Matrix mentor Laurence Fishburne as the Bowery King, the master of the city's homeless; and Halle Berry as Sofia, another former assassin and fellow dog lover who reluctantly comes to John's aid. If the producers have sense they'll give her a bigger role in John Wick 4 and her own spin-off series. I'd definitely rather see that than this Len Wiseman directed Ballerina film they've got planned.



Four out of four shiny gold coins.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

And suddenly I want to give these movies a try. Thanks, Mark.

sunbunny said...

Initially, I didn't want to watch it because of the dog dying, but in the years since I've heard everyone rave and rave and rave about it so I don't know. I might be willing to watch it at this point? But I'm also worried I'll get bored because I really don't enjoy fight sequences that much?

Mark Greig said...

As much as I love these movies, I'll admit that they won't be to everyone's taste, especially if you're not a fan of action films.

Billie Doux said...

Mark, you're right -- everyone's mileage varies. I do try a lot of stuff that I don't end up liking. But it's always worth it when something clicks for me.

Billie Doux said...

I saw the first movie last night, and I really enjoyed it. Will definitely try the second and third.

Sunbunny, the dog's death in the first movie is done simply and it isn't explicit. I hate watching animal death too, but it didn't upset me because I knew it was coming.