John Wick is one of the best action franchises that has ever existed, and I will prove it.
I'm aware of the irony of my last blog, calling for a cessation of murdering people and planet alike, being followed by one about an action movie trilogy with a three-figure body count. The incongruity of me not wanting real actual people to die, and yet capable of watching a movie wherein fictional people fictionally die. Yes. Thank you.
Now that that's out of the way.
I've mentioned John Wick in a previous blog about motivations, and you might recall I used the above picture in that very blog. It's a great picture, is why. Look at it.
I only recently got to watch the third instalment of the series. I have had a chance to consider it, think it through, listen to all three soundtracks a whole bunch, and here I am with opinions.
The first thing you have to respect is the work put in.
Like, I am a fan of those old, dumb action movies wherein you have Steven Seagal walking around like a mummy and occasionally doing little hand-slappy attacks. Wherein you have to cut away every half-second so it looks like he delivers an actual roundhouse kick. That kind of nonsense.
So when you see minute-long shots of Keanu Reeves just putting in the work, close combat stuff, rough work - when you see how much training he has done to make this whole thing look absolutely feasible, even as it becomes less and less so as the trilogy continues - you have to respect that. The stunt work, the attention to detail. He's renowned for doing that, for applying himself. The other actors that appear alongside him, fighting him, they deserve that respect too. Ruby Rose, Common, Halle Berry, Mark Dacascos. Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman, from the Raid movies. They put in WORK, and it shows on the screen.
The screen. Yeah, let's talk about cinematography.
Sometimes this trilogy is painfully ugly, deliberately so. It's warehouses, back alleys, trashy clubs. Sometimes, it is beautiful - art galleries, the grounds of a villa, various sites throughout New York City, a souk in Casablanca. One thing it is not is easily forgettable. What are you watching a movie for? Why isn't it a book? So you can watch it. So you can see it. There isn't a single shot in this -
Wait, that's a lie. There is one single shot in this trilogy that I dislike. I'm not going to show it to you. Just pay attention to the bit at the fountain with Wick and Cassian when he gets back to New York in Chapter 2. You'll see what I mean. I have no idea why it is there. One shot, perhaps two seconds long if that. I digress.
How it looks is important, because how it looks is telling you the story within the story. And yeah, there is one. Action movies don't have to be what they used to be. They don't have to be a bunch of goons with muscles and two outdated racial stereotypes shouting at each other until everyone but Arnie is dead.
The story isn't necessarily complex. The imagery is, though. The thematic. What the movie is about, as well as a man being the living embodiment of muder-death-kill.
Allow me to elaborate.
John Wick was a monster who stopped being a monster, and then the things that stopped him being a monster were taken away, one after the other, until he became a monster again. John Wick has no brakes. Those brakes were killed by 1) illness, 2) Alfie FUCKING Allen, and 3) the devil (his name is Santino, look at him).
This trilogy is a lethal exploration of what happens when two forces - the entire criminal underworld and one really angry Keanu Reeves - could back down, at any time, but don't. They literally do it to themselves, and they keep on doing it to themselves. At any point during this journey, one side or other - Viggo, Santino, the High Table - could have downed tools and said: Okay, enough. At any point, John could have put his gun down and gone to live somewhere in the country. Neither of them backed down or gave way, and so, the bodies just kept on stacking.
Time and again, the mythological nature of the entire concept comes up. In the first movie it begins with just a reputation, which steadily becomes proven to be 100% legitimate - but still within believable human boundaries. Boundaries that get stretched with each instalment. As John passes through purgatory, goes through the long walk across the desert and has his heart measured and has to give up everything he loves, as John has to fight through reflections of his own soul to reach the devil, as he has to trade trinkets for passage across the river. As John is tested by emperors and gods and kings and comes away bloodied but alive every time. As he begins the first movie falling out of an SUV half-dead, and ends having survived almost insurmountable odds and yet somehow, still in one piece.
It's a myth.
It's Ajax and Achilles. It's the Green Knight and Sir Lancelot.
So consider that a ringing endorsement.
Maybe skip it if you can't stand to see animals getting hurt - at least, skip the scene in the first one. (Weirdly enough outside of that, great pains are taken throughout the rest of the trilogy to prevent harm to any of the other animals present. This is especially obvious in the third one. I'm a fan.)
Maybe, also, skip it if you're not a fan of action movies - but then I doubt you needed me to tell you that.
Otherwise, get all three of them for a weekend and buckle up.
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