John Wick's grim "hitman comes out of retirement to avenge his dog's death" is unprofitable. When Keanu Reeves expressed interest in John Wick, people fretted about killing a pet.
After Reeves hired directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, the film and its three sequels, including this week's John Wick: Chapter 4, proved that idea was popular.
Built with spare components. The Wick franchise is not derivative, but its mix of influences makes it appealing. This franchise is for genre-loving midnight-screening cinemaniacs.
Reeves and Stahelski, who has directed all four films, wear their influences like honour badges: Sergio Leone; South Korean cinema; Bullitt; the Wachowskis,
who initially paired them as Matrix stunt doubles. Cable and streaming service favourites, the Wick films mixed underworld intrigue, well-choreographed action, and knowingness.
Wick's world-building excelled. Jason Bourne-like action. Yet, Wick's assassin lives in a world where criminal factions have their own regulations, currency (gold coins), and
regulator, switchboard (aka the High Table). John Wick inhabits a parallel universe. Wick movies are adult-friendly superhero alternatives.
Superhero movies are fun but more sanitised, CGI-heavy, and bound by comic book clichés than the Wick franchise. When I interviewed Reeves and Stahelski for this month's magazine cover,
Stahelski said that while his franchise didn't have "60 years of Batman to work with," nothing was stopping him from making his hero look the way he wanted.
Wick's playground is Reeves' action-based storytelling and character-building technique. “That was the foundation,” Reeves added.