If there's any original movie franchise that Hollywood has produced in the past few years which has captivated me, it has to be the John Wick franchise. The realistic fighting styles employed by Keanu Reeves and the many other talented choreographing actors, the 'show, don't tell' aspects of the storyline, and the pivotal music score which carries this powerhouse to the finish line. While I've already reviewed John Wick Three, recently seeing the first two movies once more has given me a greater retrospective on this entire franchise, and how much it's elevated Keanu Reeves into an icon of modern cinema, in a field which is so polluted with reboots and rehashes of tried concepts (looking at you Disney, with your Mulan reboot... just when I thought it would end at Aladdin and Lion King, I suppose that's me being too hopeful.)
The central aspect of John Wick is the realistic gunplay and fighting scenes portrayed by the lead protagonist. In preparation for these movies, Keanu underwent extensive training by numerous martial-arts masters and practiced his gunmanship at shooting ranges, simply to enter the role of a hardened killer escaping a life of crime, only to be dragged back in by cruel circumstance. Through interviews you can watch on Youtube or any other deluge of platforms, Keanu and his colleagues explain the extensive physical and mental requirements that went into filling not only the role of John Wick, but other characters such as Cassian that acted as John's opponents throughout the trilogy. Most Hollywood films seem to hold a minimal grasp on how guns work, given their heroes have assault rifles that never run short of ammunition as they're used in combat against hordes of unending goons that materialize from thin air. John Wick keeps the endless armies of goons for Wick to brutally dismantle in every manner possible, but brings in an element of stark realism that makes every film feel like an action-packed gorefest that could hold somewhat of an increment of happening in our reality, as unlikely and improbable as it sounds.
For an action saga about mindless violence and death, John Wick's storyline is actually well-constructed and thought out. A former superassassin and high-profile criminal working for the Russian Mafia's retirement is cut short after his wife and dog are killed in a very close proximity of each other, setting him down a destructive path of vengeance against those whom wronged him. John's deadly march for revenge takes him through numerous settings as he guns down entire battalions of the Russian Mafia, eventually killing Viggo Tarasov, their major ringleader, and crippling their presence in New York. Unfortunately, this snowballs into Santino D'Antonio, a ruthless Italian gangster with a lust for power, contracting John to kill off his sister to cement Santino's control over the Italian Mafia, before trying to dispose of John. In a vengeful rage, John kills Santino, drawing the ire of the High Table, an international council of powerful criminal elements who try hunting him down in John Wick 3, ultimately failing, as John is anchored for vengeance against the High Table for their haunting of his life.
John Wick is a different experience for many different individuals. Many simply enjoy the gunplay and martial arts which beautifully marks each scene as one of action-packed cinema, while others pay attention to subtle character-building moments that define John, this Boogeyman and Killer with a soft-stop for puppies. There are a multitude of side characters to enjoy, from the enigmatic leader of the Continental Hotel's New York branch Winston to John's storied rival and perhaps future ally Cassian, to a bird-man who uses an information network to control New York's criminal elite. There isn't an exact set of reasoning as to why each and every person enamored with this series enjoys it. It provides an aesthetic of violence portrayed through the slick motions and physicality of a ballerina-esque warrior hellbent on reclaiming his peaceful existence from conspirators that seek to claim an enormous bounty on his head.
If you haven't seen the John Wick series already, it's a highly recommend from me, it contains all the necessary ingredients for an original, high-octane, action-packed, yet somewhat realistic trilogy that will keep you captivated (and wincing) from beginning to end. 10/10