John Wick: Don't Set Him Off

I’m very excited about John Wick and, in all honesty, I haven’t been this excited about an action movie for quite some time. What we have here is a perfect, potent formula for a solid and asskicking action movie, redefining the boundaries. Having interviewed the directors (and 87Eleven Action Design co-founders) Chad Stahelski and David Leitch for my book Life of Action and heard about JW from the guys themselves (even at an early stage a year before the movie’s release), my appetite was definitely fired up. Fortunately, the feedback and reviews have been excellent (not always the case for action genre titles and the critic vs fan split, admittedly), which means a major thumbs up and big things for this project as a whole. It’s also great to have Keanu Reeves front and centre, someone who has collaborated with the team many times and shown himself to be a strong player in character driven action.

Additionally, Chad and David’s shift into directing is a major accomplishment in itself and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Let’s remember that stuntmen have sat in the director’s chair before, usually with mixed results and/or fewer opportunities than they deserve. Reservations about new blood are justified, but if a proven track record is in place and the film does well financially, why shouldn’t more opportunities arise? Somebody I always wanted to see more from was veteran stuntman Vic Armstrong who did a fine job directing the excellent Dolph Lundgren movie, Joshua Tree. After an absence from directing, he is now back on the horizon and has a few projects in pre-production so hopefully these will take off in a big way. His nephew, Jesse V. Johnson, is another who has made some excellent lower budget action films such as The Package with WWE legend Steve Austin and Dolph Lundgren. But perhaps the majority of stuntmen don’t nurture an interest in filmmaking and generally stick to their job descriptions. So what happens when the old, archaic “them and us” divide gets flipped?

Having formed their new and blossoming team, 87Eleven, on the set of 300, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch were, perhaps unknowingly, writing history. They set a new process training multi-tasking, multi-disciplined filmmakers, action directors, stunt coordinators and performers – all in one. Over the years, they built a world-class team of talent who don’t simply kick and flip, but are encouraged to shoot and edit short films, action scenes and absorb many different components of filmmaking. Their team includes top talent like J.J. Perry, Larnell Stovall, Heidi Moneymaker and many others who have a wide range of blockbuster and high-calibre action credits to their name. It’s no surprise then that Chad and David would take this ambitious step for themselves and direct their first feature, also stamping 87Eleven firmly on the map as a production company as well as action facility.

Western action films are often criticised for failing to cover action in the proper, aesthetic fashion, resorting to shaky-cam and other methods to potentially hide mistakes or fake energy. On the flip side, stunt guys may be criticised in traditional circles for not understanding the mechanics of real filmmaking. So what happens when you have talent from the action arena who study and understanding the process of filmmaking? This is a very interesting development and one of the biggest reasons I’m excited about John Wick. The feedback and reviews speak for themselves. It promises a good old fashioned, back to basics revenge movie delivered straight and direct and I have every confidence in this team delivering the goods. Sadly, the UK audience will have to wait until January to see the film with other territories waiting until the end of 2014 or thereabouts. Still, I’m very confident it will be worth the wait.

I'm very proud to have both Chad and David from 87eleven interviewed exclusively in Life of Action, which also features exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the film. Be sure to stay up to date via the Facebook page here. More news including the book’s release date will be announced soon!

Check out this special trailer featuring a message from the directors and be sure to support the film when it arrives in a cinema near you!