John Wick (1,2,3)

When the first John Wick film came out, I saw it and did not think much about it. I found it cartoonish and way too violent. I did not bother to see any of the sequels.

The other day I was looking for something to watch. I had been viewing a lot of those Van Damme/Seagal/Lundgren direct to video films, so in a moment of weakness, I streamed the first John Wick film. I found the sequels and watched those too. It is interesting how the three films only represents a matter of weeks in the life of John Wick.

Wick is a retired assassin, trying to live a quiet life. He is grieving the death of his wife, the bright spot in his world of killing. Soon after her death, he is confronted by two men who want to buy his vintage Mustang muscle car. Wick declines, but they find where he lives, assault Wick, kill his dog and steal his car. This awakens the killer.

Did I like the films? I found the first film to have some wit and charm, if you can look beyond the bloody body count. Keanu Reeves is quite effective in the title role. The silent, grieving, killing machine. The second film I thought was silly. The third film was completely decoupled from that thread of reality I found in the original.

The sequence below is one of the most entertaining in the series as Wick prepares himself to secretly enter a very protected place in order to kill someone. Of course he will be outnumbered and must plan his entrance and escape, with help from some specialized vendors.

Watching the three films back to back to back was like going without sleep for 24 hours. By the end of the third film my mind was like pudding. I will admit that the fast forward through many of the high body count scenes. While some of these scenes might have been inventing at times, they were also repetitive and mostly not interesting. There were some stunts that looked realistic, particularly scenes involving motorcycles, car crashes and falling from buildings.

These films had a darkness and clash of retro with the present. Old cars, rotary phones, the women working the administrative offices of the crime syndicate. I was reminded of the first Blade Runner film in production design, lighting and all the rain. The visual look of these films was quite appealing.

In the second film, Wick has a shootout in the hall of mirrors. Ever since The Lady From Shanghai (1947), other films, like The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), have copied the visual. Here it is done quite well, but the originality of Orson Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai will never be topped.

The fighting and shootout scenes reminded me of the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s, kung fu films of the 1970s, and Stallone films of the 1980s – constant action and an unlimited supply of villains.

The three Wick films, with a fourth coming, are packed with familiar faces. Angelica Huston, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Lance Riddick, Willem Dafoe, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters and Halle Berry.

I cannot say that I recommend the series or that I would watch any of the films again. The first film had a lot of originality despite the body count. This is probably not be a good date night film.

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