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Defector At The Movies

It’s Good When Action Movies Remember To Be A Little Silly

John Wick falling down some stairs
Screenshot: Lionsgate

I had decided that I was out on the John Wick franchise after the third entry. The aesthetics of whatever universe these movies are supposed to take place in had worn me down, the continued attempts to make the "John Wick lore," for lack of a better term, both legible and meaningful had become obstructive, and even the action set pieces—the whole reason to watch a John Wick movie, aside from enjoying Keanu Reeves's increasingly cockeyed portrayal of the character—had lost their shine. After watching the third movie, I remember thinking something like, Wow, that sure was a movie about bad guys getting shot in the head at close range multiple times.

Anyway, I watched the fourth John Wick movie yesterday because I had nothing better to do, and oh boy did I see a lot of bad guys get shot in the head multiple times at close range. But! I also saw something very funny.

Let me set it up for you: John Wick is in Paris and he has to get to Sacré-Cœur Basilica by 6:03 a.m. so that he can duel a guy. Of course there are several dozen jerkoff assassins trying to kill him while he makes his journey, but that's fine. John Wick's whole thing is traversing a city while fending off dozens of jerkoff assassins. Anyway, the big thing about Sacré-Cœur is that it is accessible via a staircase with 222 steps; John Wick finds himself doing battle with many of the aforementioned jerkoffs while ascending these steps, and when he finally reaches the top, this happens (just once, not on a loop for 10 hours, although that also would have been good):

People who make action movies these days need to remember to do stuff like this. You can't open a streaming platform today without being confronted by several action movies from the same school of high-gloss, stunt-forward aesthetics. The problem with that is not just that all these movies end up looking the same, but that the action itself loses any sense of vibrancy. Everyone's just trying to out-do each other's single-shot gun-fu scenes at the expense of building any action that is actually, you know, fun. John Wick getting kicked in the chest and falling down 222 steps is basically a Buster Keaton bit.

The John Wick franchise is not absolved for its sins just because it put this scene in the fourth installment, but it was nice to see some silliness injected back into one of these movies. Equally as important as the stair scene was the decision to cast Donnie Yen as Wick's shooting-and-slashing rival, and to let him play his character into a wry and goofy sensibility that suffused his lines of dialogue and every second of his participation in the action sequences (we will not be acknowledging Scott Adkins in a fat suit at this time). It was nice to watch one of these movies and have some fun again.

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