This last fight isn’t really a fight. It’s a Shakespearean tragedy played out in minutes of screen time. So I’m going to do the whole thing in one post. There isn’t a great deal about it that’s interesting or sophisticated fighting, not like Wick’s desperate war with Perkins or his slaying of Kirill.
This isn’t a fight. It’s fate.
Things I skipped over: John taking his somewhat anticlimactic ‘revenge’ on Iosef. The Death of Perkins (which I still hold was a set up and she’s still alive because I love my dishonorable murder queen). Marcus being tortured to death and John finding his body.
Here we are at the denouement of the film. John chases down Viggo as he tries to flee the city via helicopter. One of the nicer touches of this movie occurs during the sorta car chase that occurs around 01:25 — when John knocks Viggo’s follow car off into a large … dry dock I guess? … the car–
Dosen’t explode. It just crashes. NO flames.
I remember howling with glee when I saw that.
There’s a lot of nice acting working in this scene, weirdly, both from Dean Winters (Avi the ‘consigliere’ — best known as ‘Mayhem” from the insurance commercials) and from (the late, lamented, taken too soon) Michael Nyqvist as Viggo. Avi is swearing and tense and desperately begging for a gun as they attempt to reach the helicopter but Viggo — who gave up his own son to the monster to save his life and then threw it away again out of anger — slurps a cocktail in the careening SUV and laughs. He’s got nothing left to lose and it appears he never really expected to make it out of the city anyway. The inevitability of John Wick is real to him now.
Lightning flashes in the background as the storm we saw at the start of the movie begins. Wick runs down and dispatches Viggo’s bodyguards one by one, ending with Avi. Viggo tries vehicular homicide and fails and now he and Wick are the last ones left
The storm breaks over them, rain pouring down.
“No more guns, John. No more bullets,” Viggo implores.
“No more bullets,” John agrees, throwing his gun into a pile of ropes, and they begin to fight.
It’s all boxing at first and Viggo has the manic energy of a man who expects to die but just wants to put a hurt on his opponent first. He’s mocking, flippant and he attacks first — which he should of course know by now is basically suicidal.
But John’s at the end of what three days? Four? of being beaten to a pulp, shot, stabbed and choked by better and more worthy opponents. He’s wounded and broken and so Viggo has just the tiniest glimmer of a chance. A fighter with nothing left to lose is the most dangerous person you can face.
The first thirty seconds of this fight is all sweeping, cinematic punching, big roundhouses and flailing fists.
01:30:06 Another great Wick line “Do I look civilised to you?” is snarled into Viggo’s face before John picks him up and flips him onto his back, dropping his body into his chest. I read Nyqvist’s performance in that moment as Viggo suddenly realising Wick does not intend to give him an easy death.
01:30:25 Viggo pulls a knife. After all, he only said no bullets, right?
They struggle in the rain, Wick’s strength played out, worn down by his struggles and injuries. Holding back a stab by main force, he makes a decision. Instead of trying to resist, Wick pulls the knife into his own side, at about the spot he was injured before.
Shocked, Viggo maintains his grip on the blade … so Wick breaks his arm. I mean that’s what it looked like, the arm broken upwards at the elbow which is a permanently crippling blow and should turn the inside of the joint to gravel.
(They appeared to have ignored that as Viggo can still use his arm just after this but, ah, well, we can’t have everything.)
Viggo back hands him and Wick retreats away, falling over and then pulling the bloody knife out of his own body. Keanu’s expression is genuinely unhinged in this moment and … yup, that feels about right. He stabs Viggo high in the right side, into his neck and they both fall down to sit mirroring each other in the rain. Perhaps they are both mortally wounded. We don’t know.
So, realistically, the last ‘fight’ of John Wick 1 ends at 01:31:00 with two broken bleeding men staring at each other in a rain storm.
“Be seeing you John,” Viggo says as he starts to die (the ‘in hell’ is implied).
“Yeah, be seeing you,” intones Wick, clutching his side as his blood stains his shirt.
And then we’re back at the beginning of the movie, as John Wick appears to lie dead on the pavement at some industrial location.
They really shouldn’t have killed his dog.
Thank you all for reading my work, if you have any questions or comments the best place to reach me is Twitter @tgshepherdvan — and though this move is over the adventure is not.
Next up: 30 Seconds Without Fear — a one shot breakdown of one of the best super human fights ever choreographed, from Netflix Daredevil Season 3. Then stand by for 30 Atomic Seconds.
The show will go on.