Welcome to the first installment of Thirty Seconds of Wick — the blog breakdown of each thirty seconds of the fight scenes in the movie John Wick (2014)
I’m beginning not at the beginning (the fight in John’s house) but a little over mid-way through the movie and a little more than mid-way through my favorite fight scene:
Perkins Vs John Wick (58:25-58:55)
This is the fight scene that made me fall to my knees crying when I saw it at my home — I’d missed the movie in theater. This was the fight scene I had been begging for twenty years: a totally non-sexual fight between the hero and a female assassin and he has to cheat to win. I found out later that Perkins was male in the script and Adrianne Palicki (who also plays Bobbi Morse—Agent 19, Mockingbird—in Agents of Shield) insisted that nothing about the character be changed.
We’ll be covering the whole fight eventually but I’m breaking out this section for my inaugural post because of a coincidence. I was asked twice in one month by random people if I knew why Perkins uses her teeth hold her jacket during this fight. It’s a moment that watching it I thought “Maybe five percent of the people watching this are going to know why she did that. Maybe two percent.”
By happy chance the sequence also starts with my favorite line in the movie:
58:25: “You were always a pussy.”
We come into that line as Perkins is hauled to her feet by John Wick after he disarms her. Most of the action here is clearly Palicki but several shots are very likely her stunt double Renae Moneymaker (whos sister Heidi doubles for Black Widow in the MCU).
Perkins hits John on his visibly injured right shoulder (Keanu—and by extension John—is left handed) making his eyes fly open with pain, then uses a simple smash break to pull out of his grip.
She pulls him forward and then turns him into a body weight assisted single arm shoulder throw, an excellent choice against a larger, stronger opponent.
Standing up, Perkins clenches the tail of her leather jacket in her teeth (58:31). As someone who knew right away why she would do that I never considered it odd, until a Twitter friend asked me what the heck was going on here.
It was the final indication I had that this movie was made by people who knew how to fight. She grabs the end of the jacket in her teeth because —
wait for it
It’s not because she needs it while she’s putting him into a standing shoulder lock (which looks from all angles like a figure-4 lock or a variant there of — a joint lock designed to wrench the shoulder out of the socket but can also do grievous damage to the elbow or even break an arm bone or two). (58:37)
It’s not because she needs it while he’s pinned to the couch, as she tries to break his arm using that lock still. (58:46)
It’s because at 58:49 — when he’s resisted her lock and she’s not going to continue to fight for it — she goes to choke him with her jacket from behind.
That’s a move from full gi (or kimono) Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, where people will wrap the deliberately long tails of their thick cotton jackets around their opponents’ limbs or throats. The extra length adds leverage to the pull of their arms, making the choke (or limb control) stronger, tighter, harder to get out of.
Eighteen seconds after she does it, the action pays off.
We end this thirty seconds as John Wick is trying to scrape Perkins off his back—she uses the wall as a kick-off, adding power to her roll onto the carpet, still with the tail of her jacket sunk into his throat.
John is scrabbling at her over his shoulder, using momentum and main force to thrown himself forward. As someone who’s fought many a man bigger and stronger than myself over the years, when the guy this skilled is using brute snarling strength against you, you’ve hurt him.
John Wick is scared.
That’s a fighter’s fight sequence.
It’s also a great character moment, showing that Perkins is smart, skilled and thinking ahead. Maybe she won’t need the jacket — if she breaks his arm standing or on the couch he’s likely so much meat to her at that point — but if she does she’s got it.
I know John Wick is the ‘hero’ of these movies but in this moment — I wanted Perkins to win.
Next time we will going back to the beginning to the first fight in the movie which I call:
The Siege of Casa Wick (beginning at 29:04, as John picks up his gun for the first time)