Action thriller movies are hardly a rare breed of films. However, it is rare for them to be executed well, as it is easy for a single mistake to bring it all down. Poor editing or shaky cam can sink the ship before it even leaves the port.
Then there are movies like John Wick.
John Wick is a simple widower grieving his late wife. His only comfort is her last gift to him: a small puppy. But when a group of gangsters connected to a powerful crime family breaks into his home and kills the dog, John comes out of retirement and returns as the unstoppable master assassin he used to be. Will he be able to get his revenge?
The plot of this movie is incredibly simple, but it is remarkably effective in its execution. The first act does a masterful job of endearing us to John, thus justifying his massive revenge quest. Then the second act does an equally amazing job of showing us just how dangerous John truly is, to the point where even the villains themselves are afraid of him. It’s a simple but effective action plot that makes John feel truly unstoppable yet human at the same time.
Still, simple as it is, the plot doesn’t leave us with much to talk about. It isn’t until the sequels that the narrative starts getting more complex than ‘revenge story’. In this first movie, the plot is more of a device to setup the action than anything else.
Which is fine. Because the action in this movie is fucking awesome!
A good number of action movies try to trick you into thinking that something cool is happening. It shakes the camera violently and cuts rapidly, creating a sense of speed and excitement at the cost of visual clarity. This is often because properly choreographing a battle scene can be a challenge for the actors. Marvel movies are a strong example of this.
John Wick doesn’t pussy out. The camera stays perfectly still and the editing is nice and calm, making it super easy to appreciate the actual choreography of the many action scenes. And boy howdy, is the choreography awesome! Every single shoot out is a joy on the senses!
Even if some of the later ones can be pretty dumb. Why did John decide to have a fist-fight with the main bad guy in the rain? Like, why didn’t he just shoot him like he did his son?
Whatever, it’s a fun action movie about a guy avenging a dog, it’s fine.
John Wick is not a complicated action movie. But that only makes it all the more enjoyable. The story effectively sets up the incredibly badass fight scenes, making one of the most fun and easy to enjoy action movies of the last decade.
Question is: did the follow ups make it better or worse?