Tag Archives: John Wick

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.


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I know nothing on firearms I was originally not going to have my character use guns at all but I thought him having two pistols for emergencies/last resort would be a good idea, I remember from the movie John Wick that he used something called central axis relock what can you tell me about that and just firearms in general

Central axis relock is just a CQB pistol stance. It’s relatively recent, though it’s already jumped from law enforcement and military only to civilian accessible. Basically, CAR holds the gun much closer to the face and body than a Weaver stance, which plays havoc with traditional pistol disarms, and has a tendency to convince people who’ve been trained in the Weaver stance that you don’t know what you’re doing.

It’s probably worth stressing, CAR is only the pistol stance where Keanu has the weapon gripped with both hands close to the face and the flick reload. Most of the time he’s in a Weaver stance. Firing arm fully outstretched and locked, body at 45 degrees, off hand bent to stabilize the pistol? That’s Weaver. Anytime he’s firing the gun with one hand, that’s just sloppy firearms handling. Given what’s going on, it’s not unforgivable, but you never operate a modern pistol one handed.

With the quick caveat that I haven’t watched the film in it’s entirety, and still need to get to that. Wick is a pretty good example of something we describe. Professional combatants who have acquired multiple different combat styles switching between them as the situation changes. It threads it together with some things that are just choreography, and would be a horrible idea to use in actual combat. Now, I can’t tell you if this was done because it was realistic, or simply because it made the scenes more visually interesting.

I’m told, by people who’ve actually had experience with CAR, that, like all stances, it has its own strengths and weaknesses. I haven’t seen anyone say, specifically, what its weaknesses are, and without first hand experience with it, I couldn’t offer any intelligent speculation on the subject. Though one thing I have seen is that (unless I’m missing something) magazine retention is basically impossible during reloads, so, depending on your handgun, that’s at least $15 gone every time you change magazines, not counting ammo fired. (Figure that, for most semi-automatic pistols, each magazine will cost you between $30 and $40 dollars. And, in some cases can run upwards of $70. If you don’t retain (keep and pocket) your magazines, you’ll have to pay to replace them, or try to find them after the fact, which may not be an option.)

CAR is not a firearm augmented hand to hand style. So far as I know, no such discipline exists. CQB/CQC (Close Quarters Battle/Combat) techniques, particularly gun disarms, are about as close as you’ll get. What Wick is trying to show are CQB techniques. But, CQB is not a specific combat system, it’s a description of a combat situation with it’s own considerations. CQB simply culls techniques from someone’s prior training and says, “if you’re in this kind of a situation, then these techniques will be better options than those ones.”

It’s probably worth pointing out, again, that dual wielding handguns is not, really, a thing. It’s not unheard of for someone to carry a backup handgun, if they’re concerned about their primary suffering a mechanical failure, but they’re not going to be using both. They’ll use a primary; if it jams (and can’t be cleared quickly), is damaged, destroyed, or lost, then they’ll switch to a backup.


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