2014’s John Wick might lead the pack on those films that ran a ring around people’s expectations. No one, including me, had any hope going into it. We are all conditioned to believe that Keanu Reeves had worn out his welcome and action films with him starring would shit the bed more often than not. Audiences have soured to the final two installments of The Matrix Trilogy and 47 Ronin could go stab itself with its samurai sword. Then came John Wick.
The trailers said that the film was the story of an ex-hitman who would avenge the death of his dog. No really, that is the plot of the film. Theon Geryjoy and a bunch of his goons kill John Wick’s dog (his wife’s final gift to him before her death) and steal his car. Does everyone remember the line from Gran Torino, where Clint Eastwood says there is always that one guy you don’t fuck with, well John Wick is that guy!
Theon Greyjoy meets his dad played by Michael Nyquist and his dad cannot believe what he has done. He punches his son in the gut a couple of times and explains to him why he is royally screwed. The whole speech can be summed up in one quote: “John Wick isn’t the boogeyman (Baba Yaga), he is the guy you send to kill the fucking boogeyman”.
He also tells him/the audience that John Wick once killed three men with a pencil, a fucking pencil. So yeah, just don’t you dare cross him.
After his awesome action scene, number 1 happens where Michael Nyquist’s men attempt to invade Wick’s home. Nyquist respects the hell out of John Wick but cannot lose his son over it. John Wick demonstrates his wide array of skills which range from hand to hand combat to gun-fu. He gets those pseudo-SWAT guys meet their makers. This perked me up. I sat up straight and took notice. The best, however, was yet to come.
A good bunch of plot goes forward until we reach the scene in question, the club scene. He first shows his nicer side and lets the Kevin Nash looking security guy off. The security guy knows he got lucky and thanks him for it. Then with Batman levels of stealth, he kills one of Theon’s associates and gets his whereabouts from another associate and swiftly kills him right after.
With stealth mode still ON, he walks into the rich people section of the club that his adversary is hanging out at. With one of the more soothing songs playing in the background, he starts to eliminate good ol’ Theon’s private security one at a time. The moment where Wick stabs a man in the heart and looks right into his eyes till he dies is the highlight of this little exchange. But alas, he can’t go undetected forever as one of the henchmen spots him, which alerts the whole host of other professional guards who are staking the club out.
Wick goes about his job blowing people’s heads out with his guns and generally raising the most controlled hell I’ve seen. A random eastern European muscle bound dude comes in to stop him and gets his head blown out for good measure. Theon makes a quick get away and runs into the dance floor of the club. The scene picks up all sorts of pace for the next four minutes. The hypnotic dubstep music kicks into gear and John Wick walks onto the main floor looking like death on legs.
A trio of random henchmen walk up to him and get their brains scrambled for their troubles. The fact that his adversaries are running where John Wick just briskly walks, with his tactical gun holding posture always on check, is just a testament to how truly badass this man is. He keeps chasing after Theon and walks into this hall. The music steps on the accelerator pedal and the gun play switches to something I loved watching. Random assholes walk in thinking they’ll take John down and get their hopes dashed by watching bullets go between their eyes.
The scene takes no conveniences. Jon Wick does not have unlimited ammo here. When he has to reload, he destroys a guy’s throat, reloads and shoots him in the head. A guy tries to hide behind a pillar but that’s not going to help either, John shoots his foot and when his head pops out writhing in pain, it gets blown out as well. The immaculate choreography of this scene compounded with the long takes just makes for a minute of high-octane shoot ’em up. John keeps walking through a club like a level in a video game and keeps laying waste to every hench-man in sight. A big shout out to Keanu Reeves for going all out and performing these stunts and actions sequences. An actor who commits to role and respects his audience is a joy to watch for the viewer and a treat to direct for the filmmakers.
His resourcefulness, tenacity, and sheer focus are unbridled. Anything is a weapon in his hands and that includes everything from a vase to a neck tie. I kid you not, every time he incapacitates a guy he does not forget to shoot them in the face. If you get defeated by John Wick, you stay defeated. He finally meets his match as he runs into the head of security guy. John runs out of bullets and he is quite rusty in his hand to hand combat. Not at the height of his powers just yet and ends up getting thrown off the balcony. He falls to the floor but avoids more pain by shooting at the head of security guy which shoos his away.
The great part from a filmmaking perspective here is that John Wick isn’t made out to be an unkillable force of destruction. He is still human and kind of rusty. This humanizes the character in a way that makes him relatable. The danger to his existence is acknowledged. The 100s of people attacking him pose the same threat to him as he does to them.
But he is one thing they aren’t. He is Baba Yaga (boogeyman), not just any Baba Yaga, the Baba Yaga you send to kill other Baba Yagas.
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Catch the scene in the video below.