How John Wick series changed the Action genre in Hollywood?
Before John Wick, the last impactful Action movie I remember was ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’. The Bourne series is famous for its fast cuts and shaky cam filled action scenes, which actually work in the favor of the film. That visual style actually helps the tone of the movie while giving it a unique feel. Unfortunately, other Hollywood filmmakers ignored that. They forgot that the filming style should accommodate the story and not the other way around. This lead to the stagnation of the genre. Most of the movies that were released after ‘The Bourne Trilogy’ was just using the shaky cam just for the sake of using it and nothing more. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t other good action films. It’s just that there wasn’t a new style in filming action scenes and the genre has been waiting for a breath of fresh air. Never have I imagined that a movie starting with a killing of a puppy could become my most favorite Action film of the year and then comes Mr.Wick. A coldly calculated assassin seemingly stripped of emotions. Like one of the characters says, he’s a man of focus, commitment, and sheer fucking will.
John Wick has style, which is lacking in the Action movies at that time. These movies do not take themselves seriously. That’s the only way to pull off a huge body count which starts with the death of a puppy and ends with mob bosses getting capped. The action scenes were filmed in wide shots and long takes which actually enables the audience to see every kick, punch, and shot. These movies use a form of fighting known as ‘gun-fu’ which is basically a mixture of Kung fu and gun fighting, which was used in Matrix, also starring Keanu Reeves. The directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch understand this and use this to the full extent. They even went as long as to invite the cameraman to film fight rehearsals just so that there would be no more mistakes made in the actual filming process.
Coming to the main lead, Keanu Reeves stunningly portrays the cold and calculated assassin. His subtle acting with minimal expressions enhances the character as he invokes a certain kind of mystery behind John Wick. At the age of 49, he trained vigorously by spending four months of pre-production honing his fighting technique. Training included Japanese jiu-jitsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, standing judo, tactical 3-gun, and Center Axis Relock (CAR), a shooting system designed for close-quarter combat. He performed many of the stunts himself which greatly added to the action choreography of the movie.
All of this meant that the fights in this movie flow smoothly from shot to shot with a precision which greatly enhances the viewing experience. When we hear the words ‘Criminal enterprise’ we imagine a dirty, murky world filled with blood and grit. John Wick changed all of that. It doesn’t mean there is no blood. There is, and there is a lot of it. His world is colorful filled with exquisite night clubs, museums, and Roman colosseums. Most of the action scenes are filmed in a background filled with neon colors and hues of reds and blues. From the first time John hunts Iosef to the last shot in an abstract museum filled with mirrors, which is a great tribute to Bruce Lee’s ‘Enter the Dragon’, Wicks worlds never lacks style and there’s plenty of it.
Another thing I liked is how there is a certain kind of mythology surrounding the character. There are stories about John Wick. Stories about how he killed three men in a bar with a pencil, a fucking pencil, and just when we were thinking ‘woah’ another mob boss comes and says that all the stories about John Wick are watered down leaving everything to our imagination. Another thing I’ve observed is that whenever John’s name is uttered the surrounding characters utter a sigh ‘Oh’. It’s a very simple thing but adds so much to the mythos of the character and how dangerous he must be to be that popular. It takes a certain kind of skill to pull things like these off and props to the directors for successfully making these scenes.
There is a method to the madness here. ‘The Continental’ chain of hotels is that method. This centralized network of hotels in the home for assassins which also works as an all in one shop. From clothes that will help you kill in style and guns that are ready for any kind of job you want, from fake passports to disposal companies and cartographers, you can get everything an assassin needs at ‘The Continental’, for coins of course. These coins you earn, by successfully completing a ‘contract’. The contracts are neatly drafted and typed, all going systematically without any mistake which makes us feel like it’s just another job, while it’s actually not. Winston played by Ian McShane is the owner of this hotel and this character adds so much to bring this world to life. We see him as a simple man with a mystery behind him but at the same time, we know he is powerful. The executioner with strict rules, with one of the important rules being ‘No fighting inside the Hotel’. There is a high table with big mafia bosses as heads and special markers with binding oaths which are used as effective plot devices.
This world-building is one of the key aspects of John Wick as there are so many unanswered questions. This adds mystery to the already action filled movie and when you bring these two, voila, you have the elements that are needed to move forward a franchise. No wonder it became a huge influence on many other movies like Netflix’s Polar, Ryan Reynolds ‘The Hitman’s bodyguard’ and Charlize Theron’s ‘Atomic Blonde’ and Jennifer Garner’s ‘Peppermint’. With John Wick 3 gearing up for release on May 17th, and with a strong indication of possible installments in the future, there is no way that the John Wick hype is going to die down soon.