John Wick prepares for war in the third instalment of the hit action franchise, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.
Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne, Anjelica Huston
May 17, 2019
Directed by former stuntman Chad Stahelski and starring legendary badass Keanu Reeves, the John Wick franchise has continuously upped the ante, leveraging a fresh style of action that’s gloriously titled “gun fu.” Here’s how the John Wick trilogy uses the origins of kung fu to form a league of its own.
The art of gun fu
Gun fu is an elevated style of close-quarters gunfighting — think martial arts with firearms. With origins in kung fu, this new hybrid fighting style came to life in the 1980s, when director John Woo merged the gun battles and brutality of gangster movies with the sophistication, fast pace and precision of kung fu.
The style lends itself perfectly to next-level action films like John Wick. Evoking a classic revenge tale filled with impressive world building and memorable characters, the franchise demands to be watched on the largest screen possible. Oozing with colour and style, the films’ fight sequences are brutal yet beautiful, choreographed to the smallest detail but executed with realism. It’s what sets the series apart from others in the genre. The gun fu style, filled with insane moves and savage kills, could only be pulled off by the man they call Baba Yaga, making John Wick one of the scariest (and coolest) anti-heroes out there.
Father and son of a new fighting style
John Wick director Chad Stahelski actually worked as a martial arts coordinator and stunt double for Reeves in the Matrix series. It almost feels like destiny that these two reunited for Stahelski’s directorial debut, John Wick, using everything they learned in their storied careers to create a completely fresh fighting style audiences had never seen before. The familiarity between the men allowed Stahelski and his stunt coordinators to come up with an approach tailor-made for Reeves to showcase his talents, resulting in electrifying and completely unique fighting choreography.
From the choreography to the shooting style, there’s nothing else like it
There’s nothing wrong with quick cuts and punchy editing in action films, but there is something special about letting a sequence play out in a carefully constructed long take. What sets the John Wick series and its gun fu style apart from other action films are the long, impressive sequences that take extensive training and expertise to produce. Reeves’s training in Japanese and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Standing Judo and close-quarters shooting really shows, and his skills allow the long, uninterrupted shots to play out in a unique way. His impressive gun and weapons training videos have been watched by millions, and the actor’s dedication (he performs most of the stunts himself) and experience bring an element of authenticity that elevates John Wick to an entirely different level.
Watch Keanu Reeves train for Chapter 3– Parabellum:
Every highly stylized fight scene could be broken down and analyzed
The first two John Wick films are littered with genre-bending scenes that could warrant deep analysis, from Reeves instantly killing five men to performing hand-to-hand combat to reloading his multiple weapons and then finishing off the rest of them.
Check out this clip from John Wick: Chapter 2:
Each film feels like a live performance of a highly skilled dance by a master of the art. “In the stunt world, we’re far more like dancers than we are like martial artists. The martial art choreography is based mostly on dance principles,” Stahelski told Cineplex. Each fight builds upon the last, adding elements from other fighting styles and stunt techniques. One sequence might be bursting with neon lighting and loads of people in a bar, while the next features Wick’s car as a weapon in his gun fu fighting style.
Another epic example of John Wick's art of gun-fu:
With two punched-up features in five years, Stahelski and Reeves will no doubt pull out all the gun fu stops for the third in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. One thing is certain: It’s going to be an absolute blast on the big screen.
Related: Lana Gay talks to the dog coordinator from John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum
John Wick is for action connoisseurs and newcomers to the genre alike.
John Wick is the kind of escape that needs to be enjoyed on the big screen, with stunning choreography that’ll impress the most seasoned of action aficionados and blow the mind of anyone unfamiliar with the franchise. See the film in IMAX for the most immersive experience.