Earlier this year, I immersed myself in the John Wick franchise. I watched the original John Wick on a Saturday, John Wick: Chapter 2 on the following Sunday and John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum in the cinema on the following Monday.
Although I admittedly fell victim to my self-overhyping for the first film, now that I'm finished with it all I can say is that I can't recommend this franchise enough to any action film lover as it executes action scenes as they should be done. There is a clear focus on great and varied choreography, limited ammo that real guns have and non-shakey camerawork to clearly show what is going on, the actor(s) is the one doing the stunt work, and not a double. On the topic of the lead actor, Keanu Reeves gives a great performance as the title character. It's not exactly the greatest performance ever but it's gruff, grounded and menacing enough to work.
The franchise also oozes originality; it takes the familiar James Bond formula (a guy in a suit going to exotic locations or cinematic set-pieces and engaging in close-quarter fights) and puts a small twist on it. Every major fight scene always has some form of a twist on it to make it feel as individual as possible, different from all the rest, not to mention that the John Wick character is already kinda messed up and the bad guys show more and more competence the further the franchise goes on. The rest of the films are all helped out by the great use of music, characters and knowing when to give a scene heavy dialogue and when not to. Top it off with a neo-noir feel and a nice sprinkling of absurdity and what we have left is a film series that feels as though it came straight from a graphic novel (I checked it, it doesn't, but a prequel comic miniseries was released. Someone please take my money!).
What I believe John Wick exceeds well at is worldbuilding. The films aren't just about our hero trying to get from point A to point B and so on but the world he's doing it in. The world that John Wick exists in is a network of a world within another world, with its very own history, rules, tradition and rituals. We're even introduced to several different characters along the way, all who leap of the screen but don't stick around long enough to steal your attention away from said world. Oh, by the way, the films have this thing where they put lesser-known actors in the forefront and having the more recognisable actors around only briefly. I kinda like that.
I do worry however as to whether or not the franchise is becoming too "bloated" for its good. The first film is a story about a very emotional decision John makes upon suffering a personal loss and along the way we get in insight into a fascinating world, while the remaining films seem to be about John's relationship with the said world and getting further away from any emotional core. Also, the films do occasionally allow far too little attention to supporting characters, lean way too far into their absurdness and seem to show John Wick as this "oh-so-cool unstoppable and unkillable force of nature that everyone loves" rather than what he was when we first met him; a person. Nevertheless, with John Wick: Chapter 4 already confirmed and a TV show set in the same world on the way, I'm very intrigued as to what happens next.
Final note: my only wish for John Wick: Chapter 4, other than my criticisms above, is that I just want Iko Uwais in it. I mean, has anyone seen The Raid?