It must have been a dream working on this particular film, especially while working with fellow fight choreographers turned directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski. John Wick is a raucously perfect film when it S's TFU and lets the action speak for itself.
This is a medium budget film that demonstrates how entertaining a movie can be when the filmmakers truly understand that they're working in a visual medium. Most of the exposition in this film is non-verbal and respects the audience enough to know we can make simple connections without being beat about the head and face. And when we do get to the actual beating of heads and faces, it's genuinely clever in its simplicity.
The fight scenes – and there are more than a few – are exuberant and flawlessly executed. What they are not, however, is typical. Keanu, instead of reprising The Matrix's stiff-legged Kung-Fu style, uses grappling techniques, Jiu-jitsu, and Judo. The fights feel authentic, even a little ragged, all while being perfectly staged. Like great dialogue, the fights are extemporaneous yet exhaustively refined.
The film itself follows this aesthetic. It has all the usual tropes of the genre, but either manages to cleverly subvert them – mostly by using them as a kind of shorthand to move the plot forward – or simply embraces them with a refreshing lack of irony. I would imagine working with a fully-engaged Keanu Reeves was bit of a treat. While he is often a target of ridicule, it's clear that the guy comes to work with his lunchbox. I never caught a whiff of the bemused "here I am again" smirk that has fouled Bruce Willis and his peers lately.
Where the film occasionally falters is in the quieter moments. It still looks great, but feels a little stitched together when it slows down enough for everyone to catch their breath. Happily, though, such moments are few and far between.
You did a man's job, Jon. Especially in the set piece in the bar. A sequence that probably should inspire a new category at the Academy Awards: Best Action Sequence For A Directors Reel. This is a calling card moment that rivals anything I've seen lately—including that most holy of holies, The Raid: Redemption.
I've watched a lot of film in my forty-odd years, and probably far too much of it has been this type of movie. But that sequence in the bar made me feel young again, and reminded me that I haven't seen it all. And for that, Jon, I thank you.