Q&A: John Wick

so on the topic of hitmen, how do you guys feel about john wick? like, his skills and how he fights and how vengeful he is compared to real hitmen?

Compared to people who may not, actually, exist?

We’ve talked about this before, but the sort of “master assassin,” for characters like John Wick, Leon (from The Professional), Vincent (from Collateral) or Agent 47, probably, maybe, don’t exist. There are certainly assassins out there who’ve escaped capture, but it’s an open question if this kind of top grade, professional killer exists.

The idea of their existence makes sense. At least, the idea of former intelligence officers, and people similar skill sets going private, and killing for money, makes sense. It does happen with mercenaries and some organized crime groups (Cartels in particular actively court ex-special operators in their territory), so it makes sense.  But we don’t know that they’re real.

Within that context, it’s complicated.

Up front, I like what I’ve seen, but I’ve never sat down and watched the films in their entirety. Keanu Reeves is still a fantastic actor, and he puts in an excellent performance. He’s also spent a lot of time working out the technical aspects. So, his weapon handling, and hand to hand work looks authentic. This includes a lot of stuff with handguns you don’t usually see outside of CQB training.

In particular, the films are very good at showing Wick quickly transition between multiple stances and approaches. This has left some people with the perception that the Center-Axis Relock stance is some kind of firearm enhanced hand to hand style, which it’s not. He rotates between that and more conventional shooting stances as the situation warrants.

In particular, Wick’s stance shifts plugs one of the weaknesses of CAR. It’s more difficult to acquire targets if you don’t know exactly where they’ll be, while more traditional stances handle that better, and allow for faster aiming, but leave the user’s weapon more exposed. 

So, all of this makes sense, and looks consistent with someone who had significant combat training from some source. The only real nitpick here is that Wick’s training is a little bit too up to date for the character’s backstory. CAR is a very modern stance, and it hasn’t really disseminated into the general population yet.

I’m far more inclined to cut it slack than I am with something like Taken, where the character’s hand to hand training is unworkable for his situation. But, it’s a little out of place. That said, it is the right tool for the job.

Now, I’m going to blame The Internet, at large, for something. This is unfair, because I know better. But, the, “he’s avenging his dog,” meme is what got me to pass on the film originally. If you’re looking at that and saying, “this is the reason,” then, no, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s not the real motivation.

I hate being the one to kill a joke like this, because inevitably, someone’s going to say, “yeah, but we all understood that,” and someone’s going to pipe up that they didn’t get it was a joke, or just keep quiet.

So, no, this isn’t a guy taking revenge for his dog, it’s a guy who used to work for the Russian mob, who thinks his old boss is trying to wax him being proactive and taking apart the organization. That’s reasonable. Maybe even three films reasonable, depends on how thorough he wants to be.

There is one thing that bugs me a little. So, Wick’s hand to hand is (mostly) Judo, his handgun stances range between CAR, Isosceles, and Weaver. This is all entirely reasonable for someone with a background in the American military, police, or intelligence communities. It’s a little weird on someone who was supposed to be a hitman for the Russians. At least, with the character’s background, and the film’s apparent time frame (CAR is a very recent pistol stance.) It’s not a deal breaker, and I still think it’s some of the best action sequences I’ve seen in years. So, this is more of a nit-pick than a serious criticism.

So, on the whole? My impressions of the films have been extremely positive. I’ve simply haven’t kept up with my to-watch list of films.

-Starke

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One thought on “Q&A: John Wick”

  1. I finally have something to contribute. Spoilers for the first John Wick movie to follow.

    First, Wick’s backstory isn’t elaborated on much, but he has a tattoo which says “Fortis fortuna adiuvat.” That motto has been used in both US and UK military. So his training isn’t unreasonable.

    Next, the plot in the first movie is a hair more elaborate than that. And it _is_, in essence, about revenge. His old boss, Viggo, _is_ trying to wax him, with reason.

    See, Wick is – in-universe – said to be the man who helped Viggo’s mafiya rise to the top, by apparently doing some impossible task. That task also allowed him to retire from the underworld to live with his wife.

    His wife died of cancer, very recently, and left him a puppy to help him cope.
    And Viggo’s no-good son Iosef kills that dog when he robs Wick’s house, stealing John’s car that he refused to sell to Iosef earlier.

    Viggo hires hitmen on Wick as soon as he learns about that (after offering a half-hearted apology), assuming that this man cannot be negotiated with now.
    (The opening of the second film actually shows that he probably _could_.)

    So that’s the gist of it. He’s not just avenging his dog, but dealing with what he feels is a profound betrayal from his former seigneur.

    P.S. Wick’s nickname is “The Boogeyman” in English, and “Baba Yaga” in Russian. Let me tell you, to a Russian ear, it’s absolutely hilarious. They ought to have gone with Koschei, considering that Wick seems immortal and looks vaguely like a skeleton.

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