Last month I saw all three John Wick because the films were available on HBO Max, and I decided to binge-watch them. About twenty minutes into the third film, Parabellum, during the knife fight, I remembered how the entire plot began: three mob idiots killed a super-assassin’s dog, which was set up to be delivered to him by his wife after she died so he could better get over the trauma of her slow death. I think every film buff knows that one of the greatest sins a movie can commit is depicting the murder of an innocent dog. Before John Wick was released back in 2014, no one thought it would turn into the cultural phenomenon that it has become for the 2010’s action cinema. And with a kill count reaching 299 thus far, Mr. Wick is not stopping until all the enemies of his peace are vanquished.
The franchise of John Wick, a.k.a “Baba Yaga,” began with a spec script by Derek Kolstad titled: “Scorn.” Kolstad had worked on two films prior, which were basically straight-to-video action pieces: One in the Chamber (2012) and The Package (2013). The spec script “Scorn” originally depicted the character John Wick as a man in his early 60s coming out of retirement to take revenge on the Russian mobsters. That was until Keanu Reeves got ahold of it, and passed it on to his friend Chad Stahelski, Reeves’ stunt double for The Matrix films and, at the time, aspiring director. That very fact is why the John Wick franchise has surpassed all expectations and has gone beyond a trilogy: The story may be simple, but the movie is a stuntman’s tale.
The John Wick series is inspired by the best parts of the action genre, from James Bond to Jason Bourne movies to the muscle-bound 80’s American cinema like Rambo and Commando, and even Asian action films like The Raid (2011). One influence of the John Wick movies I think a lot of people overlook is Chuck Norris jokes. One memorable line from the Russian mob boss: “I once saw him kill three men in a bar… with a pencil, with a f**king pencil.” And in John Wick: Chapter 2, it actually happens.
So far, the fights, shootouts, and kills depicted in all three movies aren’t anything to be revolted by. On the contrary, they are beautifully choreographed by a director who knows how to work with a stunt team for the best kind of action sequences. It tells me that there’s a dance to the chaos in films like these. It’s wonderfully illustrated in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum when there’s a ballet dance rehearsal going on in a theatre. At the same time, tough armed guards are being killed with knives in perfectly choreographed ways. My personal favorite scene involving great music, combined with excellent choreographed fighting and shooting, is in the first film at the Red Circle Club; I loved it when the song “Think” by Kaleida started playing as John Wick entered the underground bathhouse and the party really started.
John Wick: Chapter 4 will be out in theaters on March 24th. Rejoining Keanu Reeves will be Ian McShane as Winston, Lance Reddick as Charon, and Lawrence Fishburne as the Bowery King! As well as some newcomers to the franchise: Donnie Yen, Scott Adkins, Bill Skarsgård, Singer-songwriter Rina Sawayama, and Hiroyuki Sanada. It seems like anybody who’s anybody in the action movie world wants to be a part of the John Wick legacy.
Below is a clip — uploaded to YouTube by AlexMovieClips — of my favorite action sequence in the entire John Wick franchise: “The Red Circle Club.” It truly shows that action sequences are nothing without great music. It puts Michael Mann’s 2004 movie Collateral‘s club scene to shame.