In a continuing series of features from our authors, Nick Kolakowski is out on the range, writing about literary gunfights.
A few months ago, as a break from the final editing of A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps, I watched both John Wick films back-to-back. For those uninitiated in the series, John Wick is a master assassin (played with a surprising amount of rage by Keanu Reeves, that great cipher of modern cinema) who, despite his reputation as death incarnate, seems to attract an insane amount of insult and gunfire from other assassins. Over the course of two films, various antagonists kill his dog, steal his car, blow up his house, and generally turn his life into the equivalent of a country song written by Sam Peckinpah on a nasty bender.
Both movies succeed in large part because of the fine fight choreography. Reeves really sells his character’s combat abilities. Every time he empties his weapon at a room of random baddies, he reloads practically before his original clip hits the floor.
In preparation for the role, Reeves spent untold hours on the range, plinking away at targets. Seeing John Wick (or another film in which actors demonstrate a high degree of firearms skill, such as Heat) shows what a difference that kind of intensive experience can make in terms of cinematic verisimilitude.