Far be it from me to contradict Baba Yaga, but I gotta say, I disagree somewhat with Keanu Reeves. Not that the set design doesn’t help, or that we’re not rooting for Wick to finally defeat the High Table and earn his freedom. But I think the keys to the “John Wick” series’ success are the fight choreography and, most crucially, the return to an action movie sensibility that, prior to 2014’s inaugural Wick outing, had been consigned to Hollywood history.
To briefly return to “Rambo,” when Sylvester Stallone saw the initial cut of 1982’s “First Blood,” he was convinced the movie would ruin his career. According to Stallone, that three-hour cut contained too much of his own dialogue, which he stripped from the film in order to, as he told Howard Stern, “have other people talk about [Rambo].” In the final cut of the movie, Rambo’s former commanding officer, Colonel Samuel R. Trautman (Richard Crenna) tells Sheriff William Teasle (Brian Dennehy), “I didn’t come here to rescue Rambo from you, I came here to rescue you from him.” He also launches into a monologue about how the former Green Beret is “the best, with guns, with knives, with his bare hands. A man who’s been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land, to eat things that would make a billy goat puke.”
This approach of allowing other people to talk up the protagonist’s skills proved to be a stroke of genius, as it established Rambo as an almost mythological figure within the context of the film — a status he came close to occupying in popular culture over the course of four sequels. And as it happens, this is basically what the “John Wick” films have done with their central character.