It is no secret that Keanu Reeves’ portrayal of John Wick has become an example of how action cinema with attention on genre conventions, character development, and fight aesthetics can deliver a very satisfying and rewarding film experience. Indeed, action cinema is one of the most complex and difficult genres to execute for even the most accomplished filmmaker. Not many can do it well. But John Wick does it better than most.
Apart from the fact that John Wick has adopted a philosophy of executing fights and action sequences that allow the viewer to see said fights and action without the “shaky cam” aesthetic, I argue that more attention should be paid on the fact that John Wick 1 and 2 had built up the significance of the action by emphasizing the personal losses of the protagonist.
By extending Liam Neeson’s Taken themes of avenging or protecting loved ones, I argue that John Wick’s “wooh” moment of seeing the stylistic action becomes more impressive and unexpected because the built-up reconfigure the action sequences as personal actions rather than some occupational or externalised motivation.
In other words, the viewer understands John Wick’s drive to avenge the wrongs against him and we cheer for him not only because he has lost something but also because he is good at what he does.
This identification or at least, this kind of fan support, makes the experience more rewarding because the viewer is cued into the expertise of an expert dishing out punishment in an exact manner.
When someone wrongs us in a massive way, don’t we all imagine how we could seek revenge in a way that is not only commensurate with the wrongs but also in a way that makes the avenger professional, cold and calculating?
After us, revenge is a dish best served cold.