June 14, 2019

30 Seconds of Wick Chapter 3: Grappling

We just got through thirty very gun heavy seconds of the first fight in John Wick. Now we move onto a smaller, more personal altercation with both grappling and wrestling.

30:00 on the nose and we begin with another moment I could parse better watching it back a few dozen times.

John has just reloaded his weapon and is holding a position behind a wall. He spins to his left and clubs the outstretched gun out of the hands of an onrushing attacker with both of his own fists.

It was really not clear why John doesn’t just shoot the guy coming up on his left from around the corner …

… only it is clear when you’re watch it.

At 29:59 there is a sound cue of something that could be another character reloading or knocking over a small object. But it’s audibly to John’s right and he looks in that direction — then sees the flashlight of the approaching assassin coming over his left shoulder.

He doesn’t have time or space to shoot the guy.

John gets in a club to the masked face of the assassin that looks artless and brutal but not particularly effective — the man grabs John’s hands and it’s on. They are fighting for his gun.

Whomever this opponent is he’s apparently strong/skilled enough to push John backwards — so John does what any intelligent fight does and redirects the energy, throwing the man into a nearby shelving wall.


John throws a low body knee to the side of the torso, up under the ribcage. That would be a liver shot; I have seen boxers get knocked out from the pain of being hit in the liver. Though this choreography was likely for the camera’s sake it’s an intelligent and vicious place to hit someone.

Then we get that arm drag/body weight assisted shoulder throw again — or should I say for the first time? It is the same one Perkins uses in the fight in the hotel room later in the movie (see Chapter 1 of this series). That’s totally valid, of course — it’s an efficient and effective move, though in reality a bit harder to execute than this movie makes it look. John maintains control of his opponent the whole time, never letting go of the arm.


John then drags the guy over onto his stomach at the end of the throw, pulling on his arm like he’s a rag doll. He pauses to kill another approaching assassin then casually breaks the downed man’s arm with a kick, before another head shot. By 30:15 that fight is over.


We end with John watching the approach of two more assassins using the reflection in a window.

On a side note there are very few cuts during this sequence, and the way the camera is framed during the physical fight (low, not showing John’s face) is a stylistic choice BUT it might also be to disguise that it’s not Keanu doing the fighting. I think it is — he does most of his own fight scenes for these movies — but I wouldn’t be shocked either way.

Visual representations of dynamic action are incredibly information dense if presented intelligently. Every thirty seconds of these fight scenes is proving that over and over.

We know so much about John Wick even now, barely one minute into this fight:

* he prefers guns to fists

* he shoots like the gun is the extension of himself. (The best description I heard was [paraphrased] ‘He shoots like he always knows exactly where the muzzle of the gun is pointing at all times.’

* he leaves nothing to chance if he can force it to conform to his wishes

* he is calm under fire

And most obviously being afraid of him is the right decision.

Chapter 4: