Wick is hiding behind a pillar, chest heaving from the pain of those torso shots he took in the last thirty seconds. Keanu looks sweaty and disheveled, one would assume partially from the high fever he was running when they shot this scene, partially to show that John’s calm and control are breaking down around him. His prey has escaped. His plan has failed. Now his priority is to escape and regroup.
I’ve always found the candy colored lighting of this scene fascinating, having attended my brothers rock gigs as a child and watched my dad create different worlds in the confines of a high school gym stage with the way he manipulated the lighting. The rich jewel tones of the gels that went over the lights were endlessly fascinating; seeing how difficult it was to amplify certain colors, how blue made things look cold and other worldly, how yellow brought a spray of energy, how red and purple invoked murky menace.
The primary hues of the lighting are a cold blue, lime green and a purple/pink; on the color wheel they are nearly opposite each other. Interior decoration insists that these kind of complementary colors can infuse energy into a space, due to their high contrast. It certainly feels like it works here, imbuing the action — which is actually quite simple, direct and straight forward with a frenetic, nearly hysterical tone.
If you remember, John is out of reloads on his main gun. So he’s crouched, waiting for Kirill to appear. He surges up from behind the pillar (honestly, Kirill shouldn’t have advanced; he should have cleared the room and surrounded Wick but then the movie would be over and that’s no fun). Wick’s first action is it to control the gun arm–control the weapon is the first tactic in empty hand vs anything close combat. Back to Kirill’s chest he’s in classic hip throw position and he uses it. But he doesn’t let go of the gun, effectively body slamming Kirill into a version of side control, very versatile wrestling position in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He slams Kirill’s hand into the ground, disarming him — a brutal and effective use of gravity and the environment. In Kali this is referred to as ‘defanging the snake’ — removing the weapon from play. Wick kicks off the ground, “climbing” up and over his opponent so he can get to his feet without turning his back on the man, pulling them both away from the discarded gun.
Kirill comes up fighting with a front push kick that to my eye doesn’t look like a Muay Thai front kick but something from the Japanese tradition. He manages to knock Wick down and as John rises up he throws what to me is CLEARLY a karate high round kick to Wick’s head.
For the record, high kicks shouldn’t happen much in hand to hand. My school only trains them for the athleticism aspects and to know how to defend them. Because people WILL insist on throwing them, I assume because of moments like this one. For perspective, the last time anyone threw a high kick to my head in sparring I had time to think in whole sentences about how stupid what he was doing was and I am NOT a great kickboxer.
But Kirill looks good, fast and precise, so it’s forgivable — especially since the next kick is a lovely low roundhouse to the leg. That kick, to the thigh or knee, is the most versatile, effective kick in any arsenal. Land a few good ones and you’ll literally topple someone like a tree from the pain alone.
Wick, slowed by pain and fatigue one presumes, isn’t doing much but blocking, unable to respond. (I think Keanu’s stunt double actually takes those kicks — they don’t look pulled much). Wick grabs at Kirill’s chest, possibly trying for a throat strike and Kirill grabs his arm, punching and connecting with his left hand, once twice.
This is the most anyone has been able to response to Wick, the most damage done. Therefore, in these last few seconds the film makers have managed to convey two things: Wick is hurt and tired and Kirill can FIGHT.
Wick throws another intercepted punch and eats a knee (it would be into the body armor though, so unlikely to do more than cause pain). Then Kirill spins and throws him to the ground in a very similar way to things Wick has done in the past few minutes. Wick gets back up right away.
Another front kick and they are grappling now, against the balcony railing, as we enter the last thirty seconds of this monumental, groundbreaking, cinema changing fight scene.
Next up Chapter 16 (54:30-55:00) Cutting the Losses