My sincere admiration for action adventure in the cinematic medium absolutely has no limit. Arnold Schwarzenegger was, and is, the main reason why my passion for cinema exists.
During my formative childhood and teenage years, I viewed action-adventure films from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. The majority of those stories showcased directors relying on actual writing, structured set pieces, authentic explosions and fight sequences that needed the actors to not only mentally prepare for acting out those scenes, but also train for months on end in order to perfect those memorable moments.
As the cinematic world progressed, directors became more fascinated with the gimmick of the shaking-camera technique and quick cuts and edits for the sole purpose of presenting a disorienting perspective for the audience. Clear examples of that filming directive are seen in the "Bourne" films, "Transformers," "Batman Begins," "The Dark Knight" and "Elysium." In hindsight, there’s a purpose for that direction as long as it serves the story. Unfortunately the problem began once they relied on it more as a means of hiding the actors' faces and reducing costs.
The "John Wick" series has revitalized the genre in ways that are massively unexpected. Upon the release of the first film, members of the audience, like me, had no idea what to expect. The plot is of a ruthless, vicious hitman — coined “Baba Yaga" — mourning the loss of his wife, who leaves him a dog in her wake. Criminals from his inner circle steal his car and murder his dog. From that moment on, John Wick unleashes chaotic carnage that’s become innovative, iconic and memorable in every way, shape and form. The first "John Wick" film became a surprise sleeper-hit, generating a sequel titled "John Wick: Chapter II" following a similar formula of his inner circle of assassins targeting him for not returning to his previous lifestyle, leading him to channel his violent, brutal and unmerciful rage in never-ending combat with other elite assassins. "John Wick: Chapter III" sees Wick on the run as he’s deemed excommunicated from The Continental and the High Table.
Each film that followed increased the stakes at hand while expanding and exploring the lore of the criminal underworld with an intoxicating and exotic blend presenting unique and interesting characters, intense story developments, combined with innovative, creative and complex stunts and choreographed sequences providing a relieving sense of fresh air in the action department. Incorporating various methods of combat ranging from intricate assault weapon choreographed scenes combined with martial arts, knives and hand-to-hand combat without moving the camera away from the action has cemented the "Wick" series as a rare breed of cinema.
Keanu Reeves has found himself entering into legendary status with his performance as the elusive, ruthless man of few words in "John Wick." There’s nothing remotely deep about the concept. Wick is a man of endless action, defined as almost a supernatural being, a boogeyman, who cannot be eliminated under any circumstance no matter how much physical or mental trauma he receives. Perhaps the most accurate definition relating to the character of John Wick is he’s a force of nature with nothing left to lose.
Another interesting element is the vast array of interesting and unique characters assisting in fleshing out the story. Each one has their own story, motives, traits and attitudes that essentially make all of them memorable. Whether it was the first, second or third entry of the saga, all of them offer a perspective that the audience never forgets. The "John Wick" series has avoided the trilogy curse where the third or fourth film of the overall story is viewed as the weakest of the cinematic outing. Each sequel has improved upon what the last one exhibited.
It appears as if we’re in for another chaotic, epic and unexpected/expected treat with "John Wick: Chapter 4."
Be on the lookout for my review on my YouTube channel and in next week’s edition of The Sumter Item.
Isaiah Ridley works at Beacon Cinemas in Sumter. To watch his movie reviews online, find him @Izzy's Cinematic Escape on YouTube.
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