June 21, 2019

30 Seconds of Wick Chapter 4: Drywall gets in your eyes (30:30-31:00)

I think I’m going to alter the format here just a bit — rather than giving specific time markers I’m going to mark the beginning of each segment with the times and leave it there. 

This section is 30:30 – 31:00. This is another favored sequence, with two cinematically beautiful moments.

John is waiting at the blunt end of his bookcase/divider internal wall, watching the window reflections of two more assassins advancing towards him. There was an indeterminate time jump as we enter this scene, possibly to explain why any advancing assassin does not just instantly know where John is in the house.

The sequence that follows stuck in my head when I first watched the movie both for its brutal efficacy and its clever staging. 

John shoots the assassin on the right in the shoulder and then jumps on him, into a full toro grab, shoots the second man on the other side of the shelving unit and uses his body weight to take down the first man in a full spin onto his back. That action ALSO buries the opponents gun hand into his own chest, neutralizing his threat. Essentially he’s just John’s meat-shield in that moment. John shoots the other man in the head, then does his standard coup de grace hit on the first assassin as well.

Four seconds of screen time, this sequence is remarkable for its calm, fluid beauty. It looks masterful — there is no edit — while also concealing that Keanu is not precisely a spring chicken. He moves quite slowly, in many ways, but it reads as efficient precision. 

Rising, John shoots at a third approaching killer who ducks behind a dividing wall. 

Here we get a gorgeous moment of pure artifice that can ALSO be explained in universe (the ultimate goal of stylised fight scenes).

Separated by the end of the wall, in an almost split screen effect, John and the third man are back to back for a moment. John’s gun is pointed at the viewer. 

The assassin rears back and goes to shoot through the drywall at John, who crouches. John shoots backwards also through the dry wall, upwards, in his crouch — almost ostentatiously signaling he is shooting blind by tucking his head down into his chest. It’s great physical work from Keanu for it’s not only a lovely image in camera IN UNIVERSE it would save him from being blinded by drywall dust.

John Wick, unlike the assassin, hits. 

There is no logical reason for him to crouch just then unless he’s psychic. It can JUST be justified that John sees the tactical flashlight on the assassin’s gun move, prompting his crouch. It’s inherently immaterial; it’s artifice. Cool for the sake of cool done right. 

John’s gun clicks empty; he ejects the mag without pausing. Even that ejection is cool, smooth and expert. I adore seeing actors put in the amount of work needed to learn these actions until they become reflex (see Sebastian Stan and the knife sequence from Winter Soldier for another example). 

The opponent rounds the end of the wall, still in this single extended framing shot. John has no time to reload, though his free hand is already on a spare mag. Empty gun instead becomes a club. Kick to the balls and then a full drop, feet on hips over the head throw through a plate glass window. During this whole sequence Keanu is using his right hand, his off hand, implying that John Wick is actually ambidextrous when fighting. 

Single shot to the man through the window and we still have twelve seconds of this thirty to go. 

John rounds the corner into the kitchen, a new killer coming at him from the left. 

They grapple, John shooting yet another man appearing on the left in the process. Then he’s disarmed by a knee to his hand.  We get a different shoulder throw, a bit more artless and brutal, this time onto the kitchen counter. 

I don’t think cornering John Wick in a place with a lot of knives is going to be a good idea.

Next time: innovative uses for counter tops

Chapter 5: