Die Hard, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Speed, Kill Bill, Lethal Weapon. These films are just a few of the many great action films of our time, films that have managed to stand the test of time and can still be viewed today. While all of these movies are great on their own, I’m here to talk about another action movie franchise. The one who managed to turn a low-budget action movie into an entire franchise that no one saw coming. I’m talking about John Wick, the greatest action movie of modern times. However, keep in mind that this is all opinion and while I have a lot of respect for other action movies, I’m here to tell you why this one is the best.
Well, the story is quite simple actually. A very dangerous man who did very bad things to people retired and sought a normal life with a woman he fell in love with. When she suddenly dies, all she has left is a puppy that she sent to him, hoping that he will continue his life in peace. One day, a spoiled young punk takes an interest in John’s car and offers to buy it. John refuses and the man decides to follow him home to take him for himself, in the process the man also kills the dog his wife left him. Taking the last memory of his wife, John seeks revenge on the man and his known associates.
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The story is so simple that it is easy to engage with. The film gives its viewer a simple and clear premise to follow, while making you sympathize with John. His motivations make sense, they don’t require anything elaborate to explain, nor do they require you to search for an underlying message. It’s simply a revenge film but done in good taste. Even after the success of the first film, the second installment still held an easy narrative. Like John if forced to answer a scorer’s call by Santino D’Antonio, tasked with executing D’Antonio’s sister so he can take her place as royalty. John is double crossed and a blow is put on his head by the underground society of assassins. At the end of the film, John claims revenge on D’Antonio on the mainland and sets the stage for the third installment. The third film continues with John on the run from assassins around the world trying to claim the bounty. John must then figure out a way to save his own life or lose his life to one of the many killers on his trail.
With such a setup, the third film picks up Mr. Wick as he goes through all the assassins in the world. With limited resources and serious injuries, he must find a way to speak with the leader of the Continental in order to survive. Once again, we’re given a story that prioritizes action over story, but gives the audience just enough to step back and care about John Wick’s epic journey.
Many credit Tom Cruise for doing his own stunts in the Impossible mission movies, which is great. But often don’t realize that Keanu Reeves also does about 90% of his own stunts. If you don’t believe me, watch his face closely during the stunt scenes and see that it’s really him. If you still don’t believe me, then that’s how good Reeves is at his own stunts. He constantly trained to the point that he looks as good as a stuntman. But that’s what elevates the quality of the movie, instead of a stuntman coming in and pulling off an incredible feat, we see Keanu Reeves take on the character and perform some of the most death-defying stunts on screen.
The fight choreography
After Keanu Reeves doing his own stunts, he also does the majority of his fight scenes. One thing we often see in American action movies is quick cuts and never the face of the actor. John Wick’s director and fight choreographer makes sure audiences watch Mr. Reeves act out every fight scene he’s in. Rather than just cutting whenever a scene gets too complicated. In the John Wick movies, we’re blessed with wide angles and great choreography that sells the action and gets us into the action. We end up buying into the character and what he is capable of. Even guest actors such as Common and Halle Berry undergo intense training to perform their scenes alongside Reeves. Something American audiences may not even have realized while watching the movies.
Director Chad Stahelski manages to offer audiences a forgotten art, the art of natural stunts, simple storytelling and wide angles. With the John Wick movies, we see Reeves bring to life a character audiences haven’t cared about since Neo in The matrix. Bringing back some of the old Asian ways of filmmaking, taking a few pages from Jackie Chan himself, the team behind the John Wick franchise have managed to deliver some of the best American action movies to date. And with anticipation for the fourth episode to come, we anticipate what else they are capable of in the upcoming film.