I love this section of the fight, both for the nonchalant way they just let squib blood splatter across the perspex protecting the camera lens (happens multiple times throughout the movie) and for the way the stunt crew here works their asses off to make Keanu look like a god.
On the strategy/tactics side of things as this section opens we see a move from the family of moves that I think is the unconscious reason so many people mistake the incredibly stylized, intricate, over wrought fight choreography of the Wick series for “realistic”. Not only do actions and reactions have weight (both physically and psychically) on the screen but one of the Wick signatures is that he never discounts a weapon.
So as we dive into this section, John Wick is doing a spinning arm control of an oncoming attacker, using the weight of the man to halt his spin in time to shoot the guy behind him. He’s controlling the guys weapon hand as it does it, essentially nullifying his threat for the second or so he needs to take out the other man. Then he flips the first guy onto his back – and there’s a cut here. That cut disguises that the arm wrench/spin he uses to flip that guy isn’t very likely from where they just were. I remember thinking it didn’t track very well on first viewing and it still doesn’t but that stunt guy SELLS it so hard you barely notice.
It’s interesting to see full speed action sequences cut at this almost leisurely edit pace, seconds and seconds of action uninterrupted. Post Lethal Weapon we’ve been trapped in an era of too fast, too tight editing on many action sequences — the only thing I enjoy about Z*ck Sn*der movies is the use of wide angle, slow motion in action beats.
Though they are getting slicker and slicker with each movie, in this first installment the Wick fight scenes have a sense of raw, ragged intensity. They feel immensely verite (they aren’t but they FEEL like they are) and these editing choices are a huge part of it. They allow you to feel the speed and ferocity of each fight at a frame size and shot length that really imprint images into the brain.
53:05 and we get a really lovely hip/shoulder throw of another attacker, finished with a head shot. It’s a simple, beautifully executed move and hats off to both Keanu and the stunt team.
We waste about ten seconds here not shooting Iosef as he runs half-naked through the crowd. John Wick — a professional killer, a clinically precise handgun master — won’t risk hitting an innocent. It’s another aspect of the series and character of John Wick that “allows” the audience to identify with him. He kills, mercilessly, but not randomly. He’s a not a monster … all the time.
53:18 Iosef runs into the kitchen and a stuntman with a spade beard and a truly fabulous mustache, a curly old-timey monstrosity, emerges from behind a pillar in the club. John must divert to deal with him.
He does it by ducking behind his own pillar, coming out the other side and shooting mustache guy in the upper leg? I think — leg anyway — then smashing a pitcher of water in his face.
I’m thinking his next action should be called “The Wick” — the act of holding someone down by a body part to coup de grace their behind. In this case he uses the man’s beard, dragging him to a bar table and pinning him down before shooting him.
53:30 — John Wick turns to pursue Iosef and takes two bullets to the torso, courtesy of the fetching Kirill (played by the veteran action character actor Daniel Bernhardt) who’s finally caught up with him.
John Wick goes down onto his back.
And we head into the next thirty seconds of our journey.
Chapter 13: Bulletproof ain’t bruise proof