Let’s Watch: John Wick (2014)

Director: Chad Stahelski & David Leitch. Writer: Derek Kolstad

John Wick is not a film that’s going to make you question your life or warm your heart. That’s just not what action movies do and that’s why I’m not as much of an action movie buff as I used to be. However, for what it is — an adrenaline-charged action movie — John Wick is fantastic and does the genre proud.

Style

John Wick has a very distinct style. It’s going to be smooth, it’s going to be unique, and it’s going to stand out. This style is embodied by the main protagonist, the suits he wears, the cars he drives, and the film itself as a whole.

The neon lights seen in the title card and closing credits serve as endcaps that strengthen the style of everything we see in between. Drive is a film that’s very comparable in this sense; both films use very stylized neon-lights to induce a noir-esque atmosphere.

The parallels do not end there. The anti-heroes we follow in these two films — Keanu Reeves in John Wick and Ryan Gosling in Drive — are of the same, smooth, mysterious mold. It’s also not a coincidence that both of them are shown to be very keen on their style: Wick and his tailored suit,The Driver and his scorpion jacket.

The cars heavily featured in both films are also very stylistically unique and strong: a Mach 1 Mustang driven by John Wick, and the 1973 Malibu in Drive. You could switch John Wick’s car with The Driver’s car and they would still feel correct and in-place.

Action

The action sequences in the film are an extension of the style. I mean, just look at how stylistically smooth (yet dramatically realistic) these sequences are:

None of the action sequences in the film are boring. John Wick is not a walking, breathing tank and his guns don't have infinite ammo (I scream every time I see a character in a film take out an entire room of guys without having to reload their weapon). And while John Wick kicks an incredible amount of ass (a body count in the 70–80 range according to the internet), you don’t ever get the sense that he’s immune to danger.

The action is an extension of the film’s style, but the film’s style helps the action just as much. The pairing of the background music and the action here is impeccable:

The tempo of the music rises and falls along with the pace of the action. When Wick is calculating and taking on one man at a time, the music is uptempo, but also slow, especially when contrasted to the fast, rapid beat that plays when he is fighting multiple people at once, relying on instincts to make rapid decision after rapid decision.

The Verdict

John Wick is not your average gun-fu action film. And that’s probably the highest compliment you can pay to a film of this genre. Most action films are just a random series of seemingly-too-easy gunfights mixed in between awe-inspiring explosions, and while John Wick does have one or two action movie clichés, there are far less than you’d expect and the film more than makes up for them with its distinct style and beautifully-choreographed action sequences.

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I strive towards a career that ends up leaving me somewhere between Howard Beck and Howard Beale.

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