The Buster Keaton Ballet

I don’t know how I can enjoy a movie where someone is shot in the head at close range every minute, but so help me, I do find the John Wick movies fun. I don’t know if it’s something wrong with me or with America, but they’re so over the top bonkers, while Keanu Reeves is so earnest, that you can’t take the murder sprees seriously. It also helps that it’s a fantasy world where there are avaricious assassins lurking everywhere, so when one of them leaps out at you with kung-fu or a big sword or a nasty looking gun, it’s perfectly excusable to shoot them in the head. What else could you do? Style points for executing them elegantly and brutally.

The movie is also self-conscious. I didn’t come up with the comparison in my title, the movie overtly references both Buster Keaton and ballet at several points. It combines the slapstick physicality of Keaton with the grace of a dance, although neither of those influences usually culminate in bloody violence. There is a kind of inevitability to the story, too. You know that when Reeves finds himself in a shop selling exotic knives, he will be breaking open every cabinet and throwing and stabbing and slashing with all of them. When he has a fight in a ritzy high end hotel with glass statuary lining the place, someone is going to get thrown into each and every one of them. It’s a thematic obligation, and it’s strangely satisfying when expectations are fulfilled.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum was predictably unpredictable, fun, and horrific, a nightmare where everything turns out OK. It also beautifully sets up John Wick: Chapter 4, so now I’m going to have to go see that as soon as it comes out.


  1. says

    I must agree. Of all the silly action flicks that have come out since the original Matrix, the Wicks have been my favourite (though I’ve not yet seen Chapter 3). Slick, seriously stylish, but also keenly aware of how much goddamn fun it can be to pretend-murder dozens of baddies, with peerless stunts and choreography and, as you said, plenty of inventive and satisfying killings.

    Want something as fun but even sillier? Youtube channel Corridor Digital did a brilliant little vid named “Nerf John Wick” and it provides exactly what it promises. :)

  2. Artor says

    It’s actually a good show? I might have to see it after all. This is the third movie in the franchise, and I haven’t been even momentarily tempted to see any of them yet.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    John Wick is one of very few in the genre (assassin revenge?) that I can watch repeatedly. Salt is another. Kill Bill was just tiresome tripe. Because Tarantino.

    Still, not compelling enough to make me want to go to the cinema for the latest installment. It’ll come to telly eventually…

  4. says

    Yeah, it’s not a serious movie that one must see. Waiting until it’s available for free is a reasonable decision.

  5. johnson catman says

    Hank_Says @1: Nerf John Wick is AWESOME. It is put together so well. Thanks for that link! Now I want more!

  6. says

    I watched the first Wick, and it didn’t do much for me. I had trouble feeling a connection with Wick, not being able to see exactly why I was supposed to feel sympathetic for this particular killer.

    Kill Bill is basically Tarantino’s homage to/pastiche of Asian martial arts films. For example the final confrontation between The Bride and O-Ren is a pretty blatant reference to the finale of the 1973 Japanese film Lady Snowblood.

  7. brucegee1962 says

    I have no desire to see the movie, but it does please me because it helps confirm one of my pet theories, which is that the ideal action hero last name has at least two of these three qualities:
    one syllable
    at least one hard consonant (t, k, b, or p), and
    is a real word.

    John Wick can proudly join Bond, Hunt, Cage, Stark, Prince, Steele, Spade, Croft, and Kirk (a Scottish church) in possessing all three qualities.

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    Mike Smith @8: Not a dog person, then? If someone cold-bloodedly killed my dog, I would certainly want to kill them. Anyway, the puppy was a gift from his recently-deceased wife.

  9. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    If Keanu Reeves bought space at a convention to promote this franchise, would people be lining up at…

    …John Wick’s Booth?

  10. says

    Yawn. I know I’ve seen the first, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t hate it. But nor do I remember anything from it besides the basic premise. I took a peek at number two, but it was just too much from the start. Don’t think I lasted 10 minutes before getting bored.

  11. Tethys says

    I love the John Wick movies. I’m not usually interested in guns and mass shoot outs, but this is a good combination of elements of myth, stunts, stylized violence, excellent supporting cast, and imaginative story-telling. It’s interesting that some people didn’t understand that the dog, wasn’t just a dog. It was what kept John human. Killing the dog turned him back into the death dealing Wick, who kills the Baba Yaga. Glad to hear #3 is as enjoyable as the first two.

  12. DLC says

    I think it’s fine to like the John Wick series. Personally, I liked the first two just fine, even though there was a lot of over-the-top violence. I just keep in mind two things. first : “How tall is king kong? three foot six. ” (paraphrase) The Director, “The Stuntman” It’s supposed to remind you that movies are not reality. Sometimes they’re not even a mirror of reality. Then second: “The purpose of movies is to put bums in seats, luv. ” (another paraphrase) Peter Swan, “The Dead Pool”.
    Or in other words, that the movie industry does not exist to enlighten, broaden horizons, create masterpieces of art, or be our collective social consciousness. Those are all things that sometimes happen as byproducts of putting bums in seats. The business model has changed since 1905, but it hasn’t changed too much.

  13. chrislawson says

    Mike Smith@8–
    As others have said, the dog was not just a dog. And not just from the pov of Wick’s only remaining emotional attachment but also the way the dog’s death showed that the Tarasov crime family was losing its self-discipline.