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John Wick Retrospective....How The Franchise Rejuvinated Western Action Movies

The John Wick franchise has taken off better than fans hoped, with another sequel coming (with some of action cinema’s G.O.A.T’s coming, Donnie Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada) , a spin-off with actress Ana De Armas, and a rumored AAA video game. But how did we get here? How did a slept-on action movie, with a widowed dog lover/assassin get all this praise? In this article, we’ll delve into how the John Wick films practically saved modern-day action movies from obscurity.


I want you to think back to the 2000s when movies like the Bourne films, Taken, Columbiana, The Expendables, and even some of the recent 007 movies have come on screen. What do all those films have in common? For one, the cinematic phenomenon known as “shaky cam” was introduced. Where, once, we had fight choreography and stunts that audiences would rewind and watch over, now were introduced by directors. Instead of actually showing the action, directors would shake the camera around to simulate what it would be like to be in the action. While it was a niche for a time, every action movie in Hollywood would use this style. Either to cut corners with production, the actors’ lack of skill in fight choreography, or pure laziness. Meanwhile, across the world, movies like Oldboy and The Raid were gaining attention due to their attention to detail with the action. With movies like those, you saw the actors put in the time to learn the choreography, and even perform some of the stunts! Another reason why the John Wick movies are great is that they use a familiar plot device and expand on it. You know, in almost every action movie, we have the tried-and-true trope of “retired hero with special skill, being pulled into one last fight for loved ones/revenge/money, etc.”. But here, it hits in the feels that make Wick human. He lost his wife to cancer and was devastated. In one last act of love, his wife sends a puppy to help John grieve. Then, the b.s. happens, as John is beaten by some Russian Mafia members, his car is stolen AND they kill his dog. (Like, how inhumane are you to kill a puppy?!). Welp, after a brief dialogue with the Mafia boss, we learn why they should have left John alone. Mind you, it’s damn near a half hour before any action is shown to us. Once the action does start, however, it’s a nonstop ride filled with tactical reloading, wonderfully shot fight scenes and stunts that leave us breathless.


The second and third chapters of the Wick franchise ramp up both action and lore. We see John’s battle against members, of an elite society called The High Table, and how other assassins react to Wick. Some treat him with begrudging respect, such as Common’s character Cassian. Others use him as a tool, like Lawrence Fishburne’s character. The only one with who John has a more or less positive relationship with John is Continental owner Winston, who often bends the rules of his own establishment to help Wick. And he’ll need all the help he can get. In the sequels, John is being hunted not by Mafia thugs, but by fellow assassins who are similarly skilled. At the end of the second film, John kills a head of the High Table on Continental grounds, breaking the number one rule. Because of it, he has a bounty on his head which brings every hitman out of the woodwork!


The third film has John fighting off numerous attempts on his life, with even Halle Berry giving some assistance! With more top-tier fight scenes, stunts, and chases, the films are now the go-to for what fans what in action movies. Reeves, himself, has yet another iconic character under his belt. Fans should be grateful to have an actor put himself (and inspire others) to go through rigorous training that lasts months to produce jaw-dropping scenes that will last for a lifetime. If the fourth installment is any indication of how excellent this franchise has been, John Wick: Chapter 4 will be yet another action movie masterpiece. We should all be lucky to have these films, in an era of quick edited, copy-and-paste flicks that seem like they were churned out just to make a buck. The John Wick era is only getting better with each installment, and I can’t wait to see what they will come up with next. That’s all for now, friends! Till next time, fellow blerds!

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