Dichotomies are interesting in narrative. The scene I’ll be covering for the next few chapters is both one of the most technically accomplished and interesting fights in a movie packed with great fight scenes but also the most contrived.
We’re in the under renovation church fight, the one that includes the iconic Keanu raging snarl of ‘yeah, I’m thinking I’m back’. I’ve always liked Keanu, while acknowledging he’s not an actor with DEEP range. This scene plays to his best non-comedic skills though: understated simmering rage.
I’m choosing to begin at the moment Marcus saves John’s ass YET AGAIN by shooting one of the two men in the process of suffocating him with a plastic bag.
Wick has plot armor a mile thick in this movie, because of course he does. It would be boring if he didn’t. But let’s acknowledge this is the second time so far that Wick should be a dead man.
Wick’s hands are bound behind him with a plastic zip tie as this melee begins. He bull rushes Kirill, knocking him down, then tucks his knees to his chest and pulls his hands to his front.
There is a distinct energy level to this fight that is missing from the Red Circle sequence, which has to be chalked up to Reeves not running a high fever. Both actors (Reeves and Bernhardt as Kirill) are visibly the combatants through a great deal of the action. They are both moving fast, clearly very comfortable with each other. I see in these exchanges a great deal of trust.
John, ripping the bag off his head, uses the zap strap on his wrists to disarm KIrill (who has grabbed a fallen gun as he struggles to his feet) and throws what would be and is shown as a brutal double fisted uppercut to Kirill’s body. They grapple, staggering backwards.
Most of this fight is choreographed with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which I believe bled into the narrative of the John Wick fights being particularly “brutal” and “realistic”. Most movie fights were still not quite this grounded, pardon my pun.
John essentially does a flying body weight take down without using his feet on Kirill’s hips which wouldn’t REALLY work in real life but looks lovely on film and then turns that into a magnificently old school arm bar. I laughed out loud seeing this, as it was an arm bar that convinced me to start training in BJJ. It hurt ALOT and I instantly needed to know how to do it to someone else.
Kirill gets out of it too easily and too quickly – by the moment he counters his arm is already broken IRL – but that’s nitpicking at this point. Never let reality get in the way of a good fight.
Kirill and John, grunting and snarling, grapple ineffectually now. Both actors are moving fast and smoothly, with assurance and conviction. I admire the amount of work they both obviously put into this scene.
This moment ends with Kirill using the bonds on Wick’s hands to immobilize him for multiple body shots, which visibly affect Wick, a nice acknowledgement he’s only hours from massive torso damage.
A sharp, simple, rather pretty kick sweep later and WIck is down, on his back. Kirill is hammering down punches, as one would.
But get ready for more Jiu Jitsu, coming up in Chapter 21