Opinions Can Be Wrong:The Importance of John Wick in the Action Genre

By: Patrick Weeber (Vanilla Bear)


Certain film genres experience cyclical success. My personal love of romantic comedies says enough. The other is the art of the action film. In 2014 my interest was piqued by a debut, Keanu Reeves led project, John Wick. Keanu himself was in a slump. It is fair to say that Chad Stahelski and Keanu were not ready for the heights they would need to hit. The problem with action movies is each new installment needs to be bigger and better. More explosions. Incredible set pieces. Even world building. John Wick has the added pressure of stunt work and music that is top of the genre. When a beat hits you want to help John take out the room. So instead of gushing over the entire franchise we will work through where John Wick himself fits into the hierarchy of action heroes. The factors, out of 10, are listed below. Full disclosure, ties were decided by my level of enjoyment watching them hurt people. The lowest rated categories will be listed below the character. I will get one special case out of the way up front.

Category- All 10 points



Fighting, Driving, GunFu, etc.


How much does their world fear them?


How well does the action serve the hero?


The Hero’s Story


Effect on Hollywood Long-term

Bruce Lee: God-Like Status (50/50)

This does not need a lot of explanation. His career spanned from 1941-1978. From his performance in The Kid to Enter the Dragon Bruce Lee was a part of making the whole world aware of martial arts. Just this past week we recorded a review of Kill Bill. Tarantino took clear influence from his achievements. It may sound like a small thing and may invalidate my opinion but look at the title of this analysis. The man has a statue at the center of Hong Kong!

10- Superman (44/50)

Highest Score: 10 in skill and longevity

Superman first appeared in movies in 1951. If you ask Chocolate Bear my two blind spots would probably be failing to see the intricacies with a superhero and over-the-top satire. Superman does get my attention though. You do not defeat him with brute force. The simple setup of a man living a double life is easy to follow. From there you can add the details. Kryptonite, a simple vulnerability that an indestructible alien cannot be around. Lois Lane, a factor that adds a level of care and inevitably puts him in tough spots. Villains that are smart enough to create a challenge and raise the stakes. Superman has humility in certain cases to team up with other heroes in order to vanquish a foe or world altering scenario. I fell in love with Henry Cavill’s portrayal. The missed opportunity disappoints masses of fans. Another mention needs to be George Reeves, who shares ancestry with another hero to be mentioned later. The biggest influence it had on me was one of the first grunge bands I became obsessed with. I’ve only missed one year seeing 3 Doors Down since College. They wrote the song Kryptonite in high school. Their logo related to the song is literally tattooed on me. My excitement for its future is minimal since the movies are at a low point, but I will be there when James Gunn reintroduces the character on the big screen.

9- James Bond (45/50)

High Scores: Fear and Longevity

In 1962 James Bond was introduced. He has been played by the likes of Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan, and others. He is feared while traveling around with a beautiful, skilled partner. James Bond is consistently prepared for any situation. The coolest part of his lure is how he is not just a jack of all trades. He has a high expertise in all skills required to get the job done. What separates him from lesser heroes is the length of relevance. There is always an uproar when a new film’s theme song performer is announced. The main strength for the movies I’ve seen is the ability to create tension in little moments. It could be as simple as a card game. The time between the last release has been a hot topic because they cannot seem to find the next Bond. Multiple names have been floated but not confirmed. Who will be the next 007? I personally want Tom Holland. We already know he looks good in a bow tie. He hasn’t been discussed as far as I know. I just think that he could be similar to what Matt Smith was for DR. Who. Quirky and skilled. It could potentially be set earlier in 007’s career and begging a decade long cohesive story. Story is something I do believe could improve. What do you think about this? Would you rather see the often-mentioned Idris Elba as a more mature Bond?

8- Dutch (Predator 45/50)

High Scores: Fear and Longevity

This will not be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last appearance on this list. The eighties were my favorite time for action movies. They were not all stellar, but the fun factor was insane. His only appearance in the franchise (1987), Dutch is a special armed forces member being hunted by a singular force of nature. The setting is a jungle. He may not be a favorite actor of mine, but how else do you take down a creature that you know nothing about? Discover weaknesses? You make such a masculine figure that a gun could never match the fear a fist would have. Dutch needs little protection simply sticking to a tactical vest. His human guns, biceps, do all the talking necessary. When it comes to action it is important to know when the project requires more showing versus telling. I personally lean toward showing. Show me a character’s strength and intelligence. It’s why Predator has continued to find its place all the way to the 2022 release Prey. It was a little famed underrated masterpiece pitting an underpowered hero against a Goliath. It was a shame it didn’t make the big screen (straight to streaming). That mistake will not be made again as Amber Midthunder’s performance helped put the franchise back in the spotlight. I pray, wink wink, they still give it a limited release in theaters down the road because I will be there opening night!

7-Ripley (Alien 45/50)

High Score: Journey

Sigourney Weaver is the first women on this list. Her iconic 1979 role as a level three officer named Ripley opened Hollywood’s eyes. Being surrounded by other men you immediately get concerned that she would be overshadowed. She quickly realizes guns will do nothing to a Xenomorph. The other problem was that one Xenomorph was not only stronger, but smarter than any human. Ripley stands out as a hero because she sees the smallest weakness and exploits it. As the film continues, she slowly works her way through the ship. Just when you think she escapes it seems too quiet. Watch and you understand. Her character arch in the story sets her apart. She senses the pod feels off and finds refuge. That Xenomorph would win every game of hide and seek! When she is eventually found she uses her knowledge to push the superior enemy floating into space. Overall, her strength lied in knowing her weakness and utilizing the environment around her to survive. And if everything I said questions how much you would fear Ripley…think about why the Xenomorph felt compelled to take her out for good. My hope is that more women like Amber Midthunder get the opportunity to continue Sigourney Weaver’s legacy! In a true, back to roots reboot, there are two names that caught my eye. Emma Stone or Natalie Portman. Both have the acting chops. I would side with an Emma Stone casting because her voice is commanding. It is time for her to help rejuvenate a classic while expanding her portfolio.

6- John Wick (45/50)

High Scores: Fear and Action

Is John Wick arguably the scariest individual on this list? I’m thinking yeh. Since starting research I learned that Keanu actually forwarded the original script to Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. They both confirmed the script only had six total kills. When they got Keanu on board it resulted in John Wick ending eighty-three lives in the 2014 release. Based on the main characters name John Wick opens with John being shown dealing with his wife Helen’s death. In short order a cute puppy that she arranges to be delivered is killed over his car. What the young man doesn’t realize is that John is the man you send to kill the Boogeyman. The franchise just released a fourth installment, with many scheduled spin-offs, and it all started because he killed John’s dog. When the best leaves the game don’t give him a reason to dip his toe back in. He is able to use his relationships to stay within the rules. Which is why he is only second to the next character in my favorites to rewatch. Keanu does the stunts, learns the fight styles, and is on record as completing militant training to make each gun reload feel authentic. In short, do not kill a man’s dog.

5- Jason Bourne (46/50)

High Scores: Skills, Fear, and Longevity

I was hyped as a teenager when I discovered Matt Damon would be in a debut action franchise. In 2002 The Bourne Identity hit theaters. I unfortunately was not old enough to see it on the big screen, but the effect remained the same on DVD. Jason Bourne is John Wick with deep storytelling. The action is a result of the story. A big deal is made of Wick killing people with a pencil. Jason Bourne did it first, with a pen! Though the body count is not as high Bourne is a trained assassin of the U.S. Government that failed his mission. They send anyone they can to take him out and slowly the initial failed mission is revealed. He basically had it completed, but when he saw the target’s children in the room, he abandoned the task. That layer of compassion separates the highly trained killer from the human. The only mistake they made was leaving the end of the trilogy ambiguous. The fourth film, released in 2016, did not hit the same. I blame that on the comic book style John Wick introduced two years earlier. It needed to evolve and unfortunately relied on an outdated formula. Regardless, Jason Bourne is my go-to action hero for any mood.

4- Iron Man (47/50)

High Scores- Skills and Journey

Iron Man is a character that overshot expectations. Robert Downey Jr. portrayed him starting in 2008 in the like-named Iron Man. Like others on our list the surprise of the first film’s success sprang a much larger, connected cinematic universe. Watching characters in unrelated installments always gave you the feeling he was around. Tracking the data and preparing his next innovations. As a tech billionaire he had the resources, and more importantly he knew how to put them to use. He arms others in the intense battles to come. Captain America actually served a similar role. I just felt that the ability for so many to weaponize his shield took away his fear level. While Iron Man shared his technology over time it was always clear that he had the best understanding of how and when to pull certain levers. Perfectly timed to achieve the Avenger’s goals. And while I do not typically cry for superheroes, his ending almost got me. Robert Downey Jr. improvised the line, “I am Iron Man.” Proving to be the catalyst for one of the greatest characters ever on the big screen. This is the line that makes him the leader, forcing Captain America to literally fight for that honor later in the Marvel Universe.

3- Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry 47/50)

High Scores: Fear, Action, and Longevity

Think back to 1971. Dirty Harry is Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood is Dirty Harry. If there was a role designed for a singular actor it is Harry Callahan. Have you been asked if you feel lucky? The answer is no. At one point the directors had him putting the gun to his own head and tempting fate. Though they felt that was too much it did not change the fate of the bad guy. The chase scenes are iconic. At the time this take on a crime thriller was a revelation. I would say that none of its kind have been created since. Harry was a renegade cop tired of falling behind because of the red tape. Much like Iron Man, Clint Eastwood combines his charismatic character work with clever action set pieces. At one point you think he could possibly fail. That is how you build a hero. A relatable figure in an above average situation. With a multitude of sequels there is plenty to entertain you. I don’t believe any of the bad guys considered themselves “lucky”.

2- Sarah Conner/Terminator (48/50)

High Scores: Skill, Fear, Action, and Longevity

This was a controversial take when I sent it to Chocolate Bear. He disagreed they should be rated together. Introduced in 1984, I watched the trilogy and felt that the symbiotic nature of their relationship was how they thrived. How they grew emotionally. The Terminator, a machine, learns how to act in a relationship. Sarah, a mother, loses herself for the sake of revenge. A simplified version of course, but I would need to write a thesis for the complete argument. Two unforgettable scenes are all you need to be aware of. Terminator 2 (1991) is considered one of the all-time action films. During it Sarah is faced with a scientist that caused the terror happening around them. Her goal is to stop spread of the issue and as the expert he is her target. When she gets there he has a family and her heart grows a few sizes. Also, in the same sequel, The Terminator saves Sarah and her son by sacrificing himself. It was his only option as an indestructible force because the bad guy proved more difficult to defeat than expected. James Cameron’s ability to guide two character’s journeys influences action stories to this day.

  1. Batman (49/50)

High Scores- Skills, Fear, Journey, and Longevity

What separates Batman from the rest? Well, he was introduced in 1943. He matches The Terminator and Sarah Connor in top rated categories, but the there is a difference. They hit the bar high in action. Batman focuses on the character’s journey. Like James Bond he is played by many different actors, but with a common thread. His parents are dead. His character, regardless of the reboots attempted, have a common ground to relate to. He was given resources like Iron Man, is a better detective than any on this list, and works under the cover of darkness. When the bat signal goes up all smart criminals rethink their terrible decisions. Those that don’t are going to have a long night. He has connections, either through money or longstanding relationships. It may come with pushback, but the police are smart enough to know that when in doubt throw up the bat signal. Batman tops this list because he is reliable. The world of Gotham is a safer place with him. Currently, the gimmick to get people to see The Flash (2023) is Michael Keaton reprising the role. Batman’s importance in cinema cannot be understated. One particular moment that sticks with me is the interrogation of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Christian Bale and Heath Ledger are in top form! I could never do the scene justice through writing. Christian Bale deserved an Oscar nomination if Heath Ledger got a win! Sadly, we are still not at a point where the complexity of playing the most iconic character on the planet is shown proper respect.

Notable Missing

The Bride (Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2)

Debuting in 2003, the Kill Bill duology is, in truth, designed to be one long film. The Bride, Kiddo, among other names, is a standout in the action, martial arts genre. Uma Thurman embodies a woman that knows her sheer will guarantees success. Bill and her former assassin group chooses betrayal and sparks a revenge tour of epic martial arts and mythology. The Bride nickname comes from a brutal massacre scene. Watching her navigate her network, collect a Hattori Hanzo katana, and fight high level opponents is entertaining. Tarantino is not afraid to give her struggles along the way. Even when you know she needs to survive multiple moments that make you feel she is about to lose the battle. It creates connection to the character as a viewer. Making The Bride unforgettable.

Austin Powers (International Man of Mystery)

1997 brought a new comedy hero to the forefront. Austin Powers is one of Mike Myers’ most iconic roles. Part of a golden era of comedy in my lifetime it spoofs James Bond and other intellectual properties. I quote these films to this day! More importantly the character consistently chooses capable partners that match well with his skill set. The movies have classic openings. The cherry on top is his willingness to push the limits of improvisational acting. As cartoonish as Dr. Evil is the fear of Austin lives on in the trilogy. He has a history of losing to Austin despite “Sharks with freakin’ laser beams on their heads.” The honest truth is he would be on my fully biased top ten.

Ethan Hunt (Mission Impossible)

Only Chocolate Bear could get me to watch these. Tom Cruise deserves all the credit for the work he does on these films. His stunt work I’m sure rivals any projects he’s been a part of. One tiny detail I can’t get past the the franchise title. If it is impossible than how are there eight movies. Even my favorites Jason Bourne and John Wick hint at a sense of finality. Please use the contact information below to tell me your opinions and tell me why I am wrong.


You can find Forest Film Club on your favorite podcast app. If you believe I missed any or my bias may have ranked any incorrectly contact us at:

Email: Forestfilmclub22@gmail.com

Twitter: @forestfilmclub



































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