In 2019, in the midst of the Keanussance, I watched and documented my thoughts and reactions to watching The Matrix for the first time. Over two years later, in the lead-up to the release of The Matrix Resurrections, I watched and reacted to its sequels and anime anthology film as well. Now I am doing so once again, but this time for a different franchise.
One of Keanu Reeves’ other notable roles is as the title character of the John Wick films. With its fourth film set for release this spring, I’m going to be watching and reacting to each of its three predecessors in the lead-up to it.
So I know that the John Wick franchise has similar DNA with The Matrix franchise. Beyond the same lead actor, I know that the director, Chad Stahelski, was Reeves’ stunt double for the latter franchise, and that its fight sequences are similar in the usage of both guns and martial arts.
As far as the premise itself goes, all I knew beforehand is that a man’s dog gets killed and then he seeks revenge, but that was about it.
In chronological order, here are my thoughts and reactions to John Wick:
- John Wick stumbles out of a vehicle, bleeding from the side: We’re literally only a minute into this!
- John slumps to the ground unconscious while watching a video recording on his phone: We’re only two minutes in! Also, I refuse to believe he is dead. We still have a whole movie and several sequels to get through.
- Flashback to when his wife died: Knowing what happened to Keanu’s ex-wife in real life, I can’t imagine that to have been an easy scene for him to film.
- John meets his new puppy, Daisy: Aww! I hope what I’ve been hearing about this film isn’t true, because look at that face!
- Daisy wakes up her new dad: This puppy must be protected at all costs!
- John feeds Daisy cereal: I mean… I guess that works. Dogs do think that cereal is the human equivalent of what we serve them.
- John runs into creepy Russian guys at a gas station: Pretty sure we’ll never seen them again (this is sarcasm, of course).
- John drifting at an airplane runway: …Why is he doing this? Also how is Daisy handling it?
- When one of the creeps who breaks into John’s house goes after Daisy: Don’t you dare harm that dog!
- John mourning Daisy: After all that he’s been through, as a lover of dogs, I can see now why he decides to seek revenge.
- When Viggo gets quiet when he learns that his son, Iosef, stole John’s car and killed his dog: John Wick must have some kind of reputation if that guy, who seems quite powerful, is rendered silent.
- Guys break into John’s house: I guess they didn’t get the memo on who John Wick is.
- John takes on all the guys single-handedly: Damn! Even when not in the Matrix, he keeps dodging bullets.
- When Jimmy the police officer casually leaves John be: I guess he’s used to this sort of thing?
- When a crew comes by to clean up the bodies: Of course he has a cleanup crew!
- John slides a gold coin across the front desk of the hotel: What currency is that? I’ve seen is several times already, but I can’t identify it.
- John enters secret bar: Of course there’s a secret bar here. Why wouldn’t there be?
- When the bouncer at the Red Circle, Francis, knows it’s John Wick without even turning around: It’s official. This film is a fine example of when one’s reputation precedes the individual themselves.
- John shooting the bodyguards in the club: This film came out two years before the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Given everything that has happened since then, I can’t say that this scene has aged particularly well.
- A doctor stitches John in his hotel room: How convenient that the hotel just has him there for cases like this. I know that this is no ordinary hotel, but still…
- The hotel manager waits patiently for John to pick up the phone, as he fights Ms. Perkins: Now that is just comical.
- Harry also knows John: Okay, is there anyone in this film who doesn’t know him or of him (aside from Iosef)??
- John sets money on fire and walks away without looking back: Softest badass that ever be.
- John’s monologue about losing his dog after losing his wife: As someone who has been dealing with family drama in the aftermath of losing my grandmother, I felt the anger in this scene.
- Viggo betrays his son’s position to John: What’s his motive for giving John that information? I’m pretty sure it’s not out of fear.
- When John finally shoots Iosef dead: Wow! After all the chasing, that was quite anticlimactic.
- Ms. Perkins watches John from a distance: I forgot that she’s still on the loose.
- When John discovers Marcus’ dead body: I can’t even imagine what must be going through his mind. How many more people from his life will be taken away from him?
- Rain pours during helicopter pad confrontation: Interesting. The last time it rained was the day of John’s wife’s funeral. Rain usually means something in movies.
- John steals a pit bull from an animal clinic that was scheduled to be euthanized: Aww! Please don’t let anything bad happen to this one.
Now that I’ve had a little bit of time to soak in the film and learn more about it, I must say that I’m surprised that this role wasn’t originally written with Reeves in mind. He truly made this role his own, which is probably why it’s become one of the characters he’s well known for playing.
John Wick is an impressive feat as far as stunts go. But the story as a whole is one I have mixed feelings about. The story follows a character who returns to his former life as a hit man, because loved ones keep being taken away from him. While his feelings are valid, the way he navigates them has me feeling uneasy. It kind of glorifies toxic masculinity in that way, and seeing that it’s Reeves — one of the most beloved good guys of Hollywood — in this role makes it all the more unsettling.
While it’s plainly obvious that this film is not designed to be an after school special, I am also conflicted about the message of how people never change, even when leading a different life than before. That’s obviously not true, and ultimately, I don’t know what the overall point of it is.
Those are my impressions from watching John Wick for the first time. I am curious to see how the sequels will compare. I wonder if the concerns I have noted for this first film will be addressed at all and taken to new places. I await to see as we countdown the months remaining to John Wick: Chapter 4.