I’m a sucker for a lot of things in film. I’m a sucker for sequences that are beautiful or moving like when Joey runs through no man’s land in War Horse or when Martin Scorsese unleashes his own love affair with filmmaking in the guise of two children discovering the identity of George Méliès in Hugo. I’m a sucker for a great song on a soundtrack or a well-used long take, both of which can be handpicked from just about any of P.T. Anderson’s films. Above any specific example though I’m a sucker for filmmakers doing things well. It doesn’t seem like much but most productions these days aren’t populated by anyone being more than adequate at their jobs. So then it falls to a select few to actually prove that when movies are good there’s absolutely nothing better. Now that’s maybe too much praise to start a review of John Wick but I have to make it clear that despite any silliness or absurdity that occurs within its runtime, directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski know exactly what their jobs are: to choreograph and direct some incredible action sequences. And they’re damn good at their jobs.
Action films are a dime a dozen. I shouldn’t say that. Action sequences are a dime a dozen. And they're too often the most boring parts of the films they break up. The water has been so muddied by blasé action films to think anything else. Action in American cinema has boiled down to a set of steps to follow. If one were to cut together action set pieces from the last decade of big budget American films it’d be difficult to tell one from the other. And that’s the problem. Movies that are marketed as action films seem misunderstand the very reason the genre exists. These moments of “action” are supposed to stop the film. Not because they’re bad but because they’re so engrossing by the intensity of what’s happening onscreen that the viewer forgets the rest of the film momentarily. The Expendables trilogy springs immediately to mind. I actually can’t think of a movie that fits the bill more perfectly. Every second of the trailers for these movies are filled with shooting, explosions, and whatever else the editor can grab to make the film look exciting. The problem is it's not exciting. It’s anything but. The action becomes so average that instead of thrilling the audience, they irritate the senses and make viewers wish for them to get back to the quieter parts of the film because at least the dialogue-driven sequences may still afford a surprise or two.