Genre: Action
Premise: When a Russian gang kills a former hitman’s dog, he decides to take all of them down in an act of revenge.
About: John Wick just came out this weekend, finishing in second place at the box office with 15 million dollars. It could not overcome a major horror release (Ouija) a week before Halloween. What’s unique about this film is that it comes from first time directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, who were former stuntmen directors for more films than you can count (including 300, The Bourne Legacy, and Matrix: Revolutions). Needless to say, action was a priority over all else in the film. This is writer Derek Kolstad’s first big writing credit, unless you count the two movies he wrote for Dolph Lundgren, one of which is said not to contain a single discernible word from Lundgren.
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Details: 100 minutes

_1JW4325.NEFJohn Wick 12 hours after his dog was killed.

If there is an argument for the non-screenplay, John Wick might be it. This is an unapologetic action revenge flick with nothing going for it other than a good guy, a lot of bad guys and a kitchen full of bullet sandwiches. And you know what? It’s all the more wonderful for it. This film embraced what it was and WENT for it.

But don’t be fooled. John Wick has a little more screenplay panache than first meets the eye. I mean, you’re not going to get 86% on Rotten Tomatoes as an ACTION movie and not have some checks in the screenplay department. So we’ll get into that in a second. But first, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, let’s find out how John Wick’s dog died.

John Wick is a normal guy, if you consider living with Keanu Reeves looks and a home right off the cover of Architectural Digest “normal.” Things are going well until the love of his life, his dear wife, gets cancer and DIES! Spoiler alert! Afterwards, John gets a package in the mail. It’s a present from his dead wife, to be delivered after she’s passed away. The present? The cutest freaking puppy in the entire universe! Awww times a trillion.

John loves this darn puppy. They walk around together, sleep together, eat cereal together. But then one day, when John goes to fill his 69 Chevy up with gas, a Russian punk takes a liking to his wheels and asks if he can buy the car. John says it’s not for sale, IN RUSSIAN, which makes our Russian baddie grumble extensively.

It isn’t surprising then when, that night, the Russians invade John’s house, beat him to a pulp, steal his car, and, oh yeah, KILL HIS DOG (luckily, this happens from John’s blurry point of view – so we don’t partake in the gory details).

The Russian who instigated this realizes soon afterwards that he made a major mistake. His Russian kingpin father tells him that the man whose dog he just killed… was John Wick. The greatest hitman ever. In fact, John Wick used to work for him, and was the main reason he rose to prominence. “So what is he, The Bogeyman?” the Russian son asks. “No. He’s the guy who KILLS the Bogeymans.” OHHHHHH.

John Wick then takes a sledgehammer to his basement floor, under which are buried all his old hitman toys, which seems a little dramatic (couldn’t he just put them under the bed?). He then checks into a special hotel downtown that caters exclusively to hitmen, and plans his revenge. Revenge that will require killing a lot of people with Russian accents.

john-wick-dog-keanuJohn Wick’s dog.

So here’s the thing with John Wick. It’s both straight forward and not so straight forward. Even though there are clichés here (Russian bad guys for the 634,783rd time), the film does enough differently to make the journey fresh. And that’s what you’re always trying to do as a screenwriter. You’re never going to be completely original. But you can try and write ENOUGH original to outweigh the unoriginal.

A great way to do this is to introduce an overarching original element. By doing so, you can use it to spurn numerous “sub-elements” that are also original.  So the big “original” thing in John Wick is the Continental, the hotel downtown that caters exclusively to hitmen. There are rules here. No one is allowed to kill you here. You are given special attention and special treats as a hitman.

This one choice birthed a number of sub-choices. John is supposed to be safe here. But the Russian Mob Boss doubles the price on his head (from 2 million to 4 million) so that hitmen will attack him inside the Continental, a huge no-no. Also, when you’ve left someone for dead in the hallway of the Continental and someone comes out of their room, they don’t scream and call the police. They nod and say, “Hey John. Didn’t know you were back,” and let you go about your business. There’s a unique currency used in this world (special gold coins). And even a hotel manager who enforces the rules at all times.

This is really what helped set John Wick apart from the other action movies. I heard one interview liken it to a hitman’s Harry Potter – this special underground world where hitmen reside.  And I liked that analogy.  It really does feel that way.  And that choice was enough to spurn several other unique choices.  I don’t think I need to tell you this since I always do.  But PLEASE!   Take the extra time, especially when you’re writing in such a well-known genre, to find some original ideas for the story.  It’s the ONLY way your script has a chance.

media_john_wick_20140915More of John Wick’s dog.

But there were some screenwriting things that bothered me. First, everybody knows that “saving the cat” or “kicking the dog,” are quick and dirty ways to make you either love the hero or hate the villain. But they’re not meant to be taken literally. I never thought I’d see the moment where a writer would literally have his villain kick the dog to get us to hate him.

But it seems like it actually worked. I couldn’t possibly judge the choice myself because I was so hyper-aware of it being used to manipulate the audience. But the audience fell for it. As you know, it’s the impetus for the entire movie. John Wick kills all these guys because the Russians kill his dog. So if people are rooting for that at the end, it means they bought into the motivation.

For those of you who saw the movie, can you tell me if this worked on you? Were you aware of the manipulation? Was it too on-the-nose? Did that matter? I’m just curious how people didn’t see this as the most overt attempt at gaining hero sympathy… ever!

The other problem with John Wick was the second half of the script. The movie peaked with this beautifully crafted bath house invasion by John Wick set to this ethereal melodic pop song. But after that, the movie started running out of ideas. The hotel was now in the rearview mirror, and the writer didn’t seem to have anything fun or original to replace it.

Early on I was thinking, “You know how I know this is good. It’s the first action film I’ve seen in forever where we haven’t ended up in an industrial area.” Those industrial areas are beautiful to shoot in and give directors lots of options, but they all look the same. They make your action film the same as every other action film. The fact that these guys had managed to avoid that told me they were actually thinking through their choices.

WickpuppyJohn Wick’s dog out of make-up.

Then, after mentally lauding the film for this choice, where does the climax end up happening? In a giant industrial area.


It signified the reality here, which is that our writers and filmmakers ran out of juice. They were okay with the status quo with their ending. If they would’ve figured out how to make that ending unique? John Wick could’ve been a classic.

I still like it!  Don’t get me wrong.  But I almost loved this.  I wanted to love it.

All I ask is that in the sequel, give John Wick a possum instead of a dog. Or when John Wick comes out on DVD, show us that the puppy playing the part of John Wick’s dog is still alive in the credits sequence. Killing puppies, man. It’s too much.

[ ] what the hell did I just watch?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[xx] worth the price of admission
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: John Wick is a classic example of first-half favoritism! It is a condition writers have in which they spend the bulk of their focus on the first half of the script. They don’t realize that 9 out of 10 times, when they go into their script to fix or work on something, they’re focusing on the first half (they do this whether they know it or not since the first half is closer to the top of the document, which is often where you open it). For this reason, the second half of your screenplay gets the short stick. So here’s a trick to avoid that. Instead of always opening your script on the first page and going down, open up the bottom of your script and go up. Work on those bottom scenes just as much as you do the top ones. Otherwise, there will be a perceptible quality drop as your script goes on.

What I learned: Just say NO to industrial locations in your action script! In your next action script, I implore you NOT to use any industrial locations. The entire thing must avoid all industrial areas, including the insides of warehouses! Especially the scene where our hero is captured and wakes up tied to a chair in a warehouse. Give us something new instead!

  • klmn

  • Citizen M

    What about a Halloween script challenge?

    A two to three page script suitable for Halloween but it must contain certain words, e.g. “can opener” and “jumper”. Points awarded for original interpretation of words.

    Julie Gray used to run competitions like that (for fun, no prizes). Most of the entries were cliche but some were really good.

    • Mr.GoodMemes

      Stop by Done Deal Pro. They have exactly (well almost) what you asked for in the Writing Exercise Forum, i.e. Halloween 2014 Writing Exercise (8 pages max). The competition (no prizes) closed on 10/24/14, but you can read the entries, and vote (if you register).

  • carsonreeves1

    See, that could be cool! Assuming you had someone creative enough to take advantage of the uniqueness of it.

  • Dale T

    Right when that cute adorable makes your stomach explode with butterflies puppy was introduced I knew she was a device to invoke emotional distraught for the main character when she would inevitably die. I saw it coming a mile away…and yet I was still taken in. I was tearing up for that little puppy so hard, my heart split in half.

    I never wanted to fucking see a fucking movie fucking villain die more than fucking Theon fucking Greyjoy in John Wick.

    Why did it work for me? It’s because that puppy didn’t fight back, not like other dogs in movies would. She whimpered underneath the couch watching her beloved owner get the shit beat out of him. She was helpless and didn’t know what to do. And what does Theon fucking Greyjoy do? KILL HER BECAUSE SHE WAS CRYING. WHO THE FUCK DOES THAT. And the cherry on top? She was running away from her soon to be killers fearing for her life. I mean fuck, that was the most evil scene I’d ever had to endure in cinema.

    John Wick’s effectiveness hinged on a 5 second scene where a dog dies. And by God did it fucking work to perfection. I would have kept my eyes glued to the screen, even if the rest of the movie was filled with pointless action and long winded expository dialogue, just to see Theon penisless Greyjoy die.

    Dog dying scene aside,

    There’s another screenwriting lesson that I learned in this movie. Congruency. There never was a moment in John Wick that felt inconsistent. It may have been cliche, and I caught myself rolling my eyes a couple times, but everything about the movie, from its dialogue to its tone, was congruent with each other. Nothing ever felt out of place. Everything about the movie felt organically built in.

  • Levres de Sang

    Action movies aren’t really my thing, but today’s piece is great in screenwriting terms. I especially like the reminder as to the second half of our scripts.

    With this in mind, maybe we could have a Thursday article focusing either on the transition from Act 2 into Act 3 or from the Midpoint to the end of Act 2.

  • andyjaxfl

    To be fair to Dolph Lundgren, the guy has been making some fairly solid DTV action flick for a few years now, so it’s no surprise that the guy writing for him was eventually noticed. It may read as weird, but it’s true. I highly recommend any action fans to check out any movies that Dolph has directed since 2007 or 2008. Very solid thrillers with actual character arcs–honestly!

    And if you’re still interested, check out the work of John Hyams (son of Peter Hyams) who directed my favorite action movie of the last five years, Universal Soldier: Regeneration, which took the unexpected path of exploring the scarred psychology of the UniSols using the always fantastic Jean Claude Van Damage (errrr Damme). It’s a hidden gem and worth watching!

  • BoSoxBoy

    Isn’t saying “no more abandoned warehouses” or “industrial areas” in an action thriller capture scene a little like saying “no more scenes in houses” in a horror script? Where else would those scenes typically take place?

    • Randy Williams

      Yeah, where else are you gonna find all that chain?

      • Sebastian Cornet

        In a chain store, of course!

        Hahaha, thank you, thank you, I know I’m the best, I’ll be here all week, tell your friends, and don’t forget to tip the servers.

      • GoIrish

        If they can find a way to get chains in Nakatomi Plaza…

  • Scott Strybos

    I wanted to like this movie but I didn’t. I was on board during the first act, even with the obvious manipulations and clichés–if anything they made the movie more fun. But as the second act rolled on I grew bored, mostly because every action scene was just like the other.

    Other elements I could not ignore was the horribly written female assassin subplot.

    And continuing the film after he killed the last person who killed his dog. Killing the head mob boss after he killed his friend was outside the original goal of the movie and therefore felt out of place. The movie would’ve been cleaner if just about his dog.

  • JoshuaS

    OT: a simple poll to gather some first responses to an idea/concept.

    TITLE: “Two Times Zero”
    GENRE: Drama
    LOGLINE:”The sole survivor of a failed spousal suicide-pact, an artist decides to live out his life in penance. Unexpectedly, he meets new love and becomes undone as his self-imposed suffering turns to guilt.”

    So, “yes”, “no”, “maybe/depends”? Thanks!

    • Cuesta

      Not my thing, but just because I generally don’t like seeing someone weep, much less the lead character of a movie.

    • ChadStuart

      You’re gonna have a hard time recovering from a guy who enters a suicide pact, watches his lover die, and then chickens out. The audience will hate him no matter what. There’s nothing interesting about watching a coward who cons his girlfriend into killing herself.

      • JoshuaS

        Thanks, but it wouldn’t be a case of chickening out. The wife has a progressive neurological disease, and wants out. He’s like “Okay, but I won’t let you go alone,” except, against his will, he survives.

        Would that make a difference in your assessment?

        • ChadStuart

          No, because why wouldn’t he just finish the job later when he’s able? There’s plenty of guilt associated with assisting suicide of a terminal patient. Just stick with that. The “suicide pact” just complicates things too much.

          • Bifferspice

            totally disagree. if you want him to kill himself cos she died of a disease, you’re weird, and i suspect you’re in the minority.

            i think it sounds quite an interesting premise

          • ChadStuart

            No, he would just be fulfilling his “suicide pact” he made with her. He’s still breaking the pact.

          • Bifferspice

            yes, and so he should. suicide pacts are fucking stupid. i like that he got caught up in the moment, but who the hell thinks it’s right to kill themselves cos their partner died? :-/

          • Bacon Statham

            I don’t think anyone would disagree with you about suicide pacts being stupid, but Chad has got a point. As utterly ridiculous as it is, it’s a promise made from one person to another. If the protagonist agrees to enter into a suicide pact with his dying wife and he fails to kill himself (through no fault of his own) whilst she doesn’t, then why doesn’t he just do it after the failed attempt?
            Living your life out in penance because you failed to keep your ”suicide pact” promise to your dying wife is… well, it doesn’t make sense. At all.
            Not to mention this script revolves around a woman who agreed to let her husband kill himself just so she wouldn’t die alone. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not gonna care about the protagonist when the love of his life agreed with his decision to commit suicide along with her.
            To be honest, she’s a cold-hearted bitch and the protagonist is a selfish tosser. It might sound cold, but I can understand the wife wanting to commit suicide since she’s gonna die anyway. The only reason the husband wants to die is because he doesn’t want to be alone, not because he doesn’t want HER to DIE alone.

          • Bifferspice

            “why doesn’t he just do it after the failed attempt?” i guess you’ve got to read the screenplay to know the answer to that one. you can’t answer every question in a logline. if it makes you curious enough to read on, it’s done its job. if it doesn’t, well, doesn’t sound like you’d like it anyway

          • Bacon Statham

            You’re right. You can’t answer every question in a logline, but you also can’t make the reader question the logline. If just one person sees the logline and says it doesn’t make any sense then chances are it doesn’t make any sense. The script might be frigging amazing and when you read it, it might make sense, but the logline is the first hurdle. And in order for me to jump it, the writer has to motivate me into jumping it.
            The problem with the logline is that the failed suicide pact is the hook, but it’s completely illogical. Personally I’d keep the suicide pact, but I’d twist it and have the wife secretly sabotage it, so the husband is meant to fail his attempt as a way to show him that he has to find a reason to keep on living without her.
            So you’ve got the hook and it makes sense from a story/character standpoint. There’s a character arc for the protagonist and the wife doesn’t seem as cold hearted anymore.

          • Bifferspice

            and how would you get all that in a logline? (i’m not arguing by the way, what you’re saying makes sense. i’m just awful at loglines!)

          • Bacon Statham

            ”After his terminally ill wife sabotages their suicide pact, a grief stricken artist must fulfil her last wish and find a reason to keep on living.”
            I’d keep the love interest part out of the logline and just let it come up as part of the story. I might even keep the sabotage aspect out of it so it comes as a surprise to both the protag and the audience, but then again, up until the reveal, it might initially make people view the wife as a cold-hearted bitch for agreeing to go along with it in the first place, so it’s a tricky line to walk.

          • Bifferspice

            shit the bed, that’s genuinely excellent! i’m gonna come looking for you to write my loglines!

          • Randy Williams

            I like the “suicide pact” angle because it reflects on all of us. All of have a “suicide pact” to a degree with other people in our lives.

          • ChadStuart

            No, we don’t. If something happens to me I expect my wife to go on living as fully as possible, even if that means loving again. At the bare minimum I want her here for our daughter as long as she can be. I don’t want her dying just because I do. Life is too precious.

          • JoshuaS

            He wouldn’t because, and I agree this would be quite tricky, he believes he has no right to take the easy way out of his suffering, since he failed her so badly.

            That’s the dilemma when he meets someone new: suddenly living becomes a fate that’s not worse than death, and that’s when the guilt for being alive comes into play.

          • ChadStuart

            But how did he fail her besides not killing himself? He’s failing her by not carrying on with his promise. That’s the only failure you’ve described up to this point. The pact angle complicates things needlessly. He can just have survivor’s guilt without the pact.

          • Bifferspice

            how do you know it’s needless until you read the script?

          • ChadStuart

            Because of the very nature of suicide pacts. Simply put, it’s a pact you make with someone to basically convince them to kill themselves since you’ll be doing the same in return. So, based on this logline we have a guy who’s saying don’t fight this disease, let’s just kill ourselves. Don’t be scared of killing yourself because I’m doing it too. It’s a form of talking someone into killing themselves, and then this guy doesn’t go through with it. That’s what makes it distasteful.

            Even if you take the flipside, where she’s absolutely going to die and convinces him to kill himself after she does, then you have a guy pining after a woman who wanted him to kill himself. It’s not a romantic notion at all. Either way you play the “suicide pact”, you’re dealing with a really creepy opening that will be very difficult to respond to.

    • mulesandmud

      Interesting premise. Gonna need to bring some strong ideas to the table to make it work.

      The logline feels slightly illogical: it suggests that he becomes undone as a result of meeting a new love, as opposed to the failed suicide, which seems confused, even if that’s how it actually goes in your story. And I suspect that ‘penance’ isn’t the right word here.

      Good luck with it.

    • Adam W. Parker

      I’m getting a downer tone. It may be only because the wording.

      “…in penance, but unexpectedly meets a new love who [something interesting or ironic about her].”

      This wording makes me more interested. I’m all for depressing movies (I own Secret Sunshine, Breaking the Waves, Narayama, Shame, Doubt…lol). But not in the logline.

      Give us hope in the logline – dash it in the movie (if you wish).

      btw I’m writing something exploring this theme also, though from a comedy angle.

  • fatherdope

    “I never thought I’d see the moment where a writer would literally have his villain kick the dog to get us to hate him.”

    The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum) – rolled up newspaper.

    On a three-legged dog.

    • hickeyyy

      Be still, Cody.

    • scriptfeels

      In the Grand Budapest Hotel, Jopling (Willem Dafoe) throws Deputy Kovacs’ (Jeff Goldblum) cat out a window, killing it.

  • Randy Williams

    “All I ask is that in the sequel, give John Wick a possum instead of a dog”

    So the possum can “play possum” and not get whacked?

    I actually have a small possum as a pet. If someone harmed my possum, I’d go
    full-bore John Wick on them, count on it.
    Possums are anti-social so when they do show some love, it means so much
    Of course, I supply my girl with treats she goes crazy for, mealworms and
    Activia yogurt.

    But I sense a much deeper relationship.

    • Randy Williams

      Why did only the ladies upvote me on this comment?
      Guys only like possums as roadkill?

  • Randy Williams

    If I was the writer of the best horror film of the year, then I’d want it released as close to the holiday season when people are off work and school to maximize the buzz and as close to the Oscars as well to maximize that buzz. Not just a Halloween, one and done.

  • shewrites

    I haven’t seen the movie yet but will do even after reading the review. I fell for the “kill the dog” trope even on the page because the villain doesn’t kill John’s dog, he kills the dog that his wife gave him, his wife who just passed away, so to me the Russian is also killing John’s wife in a sense.
    And the dog is not just a dog, it’s a reason for John to keep it together after his wife goes, she knew what she was doing when she got him the dog, she was giving him a reason to go on, something to latch on to right after she’s gone. It’s a beautiful gift of life. Okay, I’m going to stop before I start crying on my lap top.
    Thanks for the review, Carson, as always!

  • mulesandmud

    A director friend was sent this script a while back. He called me up laughing.

    “A hitman avenges his dog.”

    “Bullshit,” I said, even though I knew he wasn’t lying.

    Many people seem to agree that the film is well made, and appropriately self-aware, and I see the opportunity for some fun genre commentary here, I guess.

    But let’s make sure one thing stays nice and sparkling clear: this premise is moronic.

    It’s an SNL skit on its best day, an embarrassing grab at audience sympathy on its worst. The fact that the dog is a symbol of a cancer-wife tips the scales toward the latter.

    To draw anything from this premise besides outright parody would require tremendous love and care. It would require significantly more intelligence and creativity that the actual concept.

    Which isn’t impossible. BRICK pulls off a similar miracle, taking a profoundly dopey premise (high school as film noir!), playing it utterly straight, and drawing all sorts of impressive notes from the effort.

    I can’t help feeling that JOHN WICK is a more cynical endeavor, though. I haven’t seen the film, so I don’t know if the filmmakers brought what was needed, but if they did, bless their damned souls.

    Meanwhile, let’s try not to learn the wrong lessons from a movie like this, or else we threaten to drop an already low bar even lower.

    • Scott Strybos

      Anyone who writes that a hitman who avenges the murder of his dog is moronic is probably someone who has never had a dog.

      • Adam W. Parker

        This is also a great statement that could be the seed of a good movie. How far is too far when avenging a pet (or person)?
        Would it be ridiculous if it was a cat? A hamster? A mouse? A fly? A fern?

        • klmn

          Now, those are just silly.

          Got to sign off now. I’m flying down to Antarctica to machine gun some dancing penguins.

          • scriptfeels

            Happy Feet Crime Thriller Spinoff Summer 2015?

          • klmn

            Just think how it will look on film. You’ve got the black and white penguins dancing on the ice. Very stylish.

            Then I open up with my MG-42. Black and white feathers flying, red blood spraying. All without special effects!

            Like the Turtleman would say, “Live action!”

        • scriptfeels

          Great Question. I think its all about the stakes, if there’s a great emotional attachment to the pet and the audience gets a scene where we feel the relationship between the pet and the hitman develop and an understanding of how the pet influences the hitman’s life, then I think the pet can be used effectively as a setup for a revenge thriller. Even if the pet is a pig or a fly, if the audience is able to sympathize with the character and understand the stakes attached to the pet then we will go on their journey with them. It may be harder to make a pet fly as important to a person as a pet dog though so it sounds a bit too difficult for me to pull off.

          • Adam W. Parker

            Definitely. Well put.

          • Scott Strybos

            Greatest example of an attachment between a protagonist and non-conventional recipient, and this relationship driving the narrative, eliciting emotion and sympathy in the audience, would be Lars and the Real Girl. I remember it as a great film and the bafflement after that the relationship that effected me so was between a man and a sex doll.

            If you haven’t see the film it stars Ryan Gosling, is surprisingly not creepy, and is a film people should see.

          • scriptfeels

            I still thought it was creepy though, but agree that its a great example of a protagonist and a non-conventional recipient.

          • Dave Clary

            My first wife died in 2007, and all I had after that was our dog, who died of old age less than a year after she did. If someone had killed that dog, in the state of mind I was in?

            This movie’s premise did not feel one iota far-fetched or ridiculous to me, and it hurt very badly to see poor Daisy go down.

        • Sullivan

          I’d do anything for my goldfish. Anything.

    • klmn

      Yeah, but they didn’t just kill his dog – they stole his car.

      Now, if it had been a pickup truck, you’d have a country song.

    • Linkthis83

      Very much enjoyed BRICK.

    • JakeMLB

      Not sure why you’re lumping in BRICK with WICK? Is it because they rhyme? There’s nothing dopey about the premise for BRICK. In fact, I’d call it brilliant. Regarding WICK, there is clearly a swelling desire for the no-nonsense, unapologetic actioner. First DREDD. Now WICK. Even TAKEN fits the bill (maybe even THE EQUALIZER). There is beauty in simplicity sometimes. I haven’t seen THE ROVER yet but the premise is similar. It doesn’t seem to be getting as much attention but I think it’s probably because it’s a bit too bleak.

      • mulesandmud

        Brilliant and dopey are not mutually exclusive. BRICK has an absurd premise, and could have been an embarrassment if not for its level-headed execution. The result is brilliant because the film is aware of its absurdity, and deals with it head on, meshing wildly different genres in consistently clever ways.

        DREDD is also an absurd concept that works primarily because of its grounded execution. For proof that the same concept could have gone horribly, hopelessly wrong, look no further than Stallone’s JUDGE DREDD.

        The style of JOHN WICK may be no-nonsense, but the premise is not. A hitman avenging his dog is the reductio ad absurdum of revenge stories. TAKEN is naturalism by comparison.

        THE ROVER has a lot of relevance to JOHN WICK, actually. The movie end with a reveal of it’s hero’s absurd (and very similar) motivation for all the mayhem he’s caused, and the movie retroactively collapses from that choice.

        Interestingly, the premise of BLUE RUIN is extremely grounded and contains almost no absurdity, but the execution brings it in spades and turns the genre on its head. The result is one of the year’s best films.

        Absurdity is the unhinged, pill-popping cousin of irony. If you’re gonna take her to the party with you, better plan for a wild night, or else you’re setting yourself up for disaster.

        • JakeMLB

          FYI, dopey means “idiotic” but I get what you are saying though I still wouldn’t call BRICK “absurd” but that’s just arguing semantics.

          And I’m not so much applauding the premises here, more so the execution (although the two go hand-in-hand). The premises for the EQUALIZER, DREDD and WICK (excluding BLUE RUIN which is as you say extremely grounded and an excellent film) might be absurd, but they’re simple and the execution is unapologetic, consistent and straight-laced with the focus entirely on action. There is little to no attempt at character arc or subplots or thematic development. They are simple in premise and in execution and to some degree I think audiences are appreciative of that considering how bloated the action genre has become thanks to films like BOURNE IDENTITY, MISSIONS IMPOSSIBLE and THE BONDS of late. And JUDGE DREDD is nothing like DREDD. One is a simple, unapologetic actioner and the other is not. The source material might be the same but the concepts and plots are wildly different.

          • mulesandmud

            Yes, that’s just arguing semantics. At least we agree on that.

            Then again, if you think FASTER is bloated, we might as well be speaking two different languages.

    • scriptfeels

      I never thought of Brick as a profoundly dopey premise… just a different take on a high school drama. I love Brick though :3

    • klmn

      How do you feel about baby kicking?

    • Midnight Luck

      Wick dropped the bar so low, it has disappeared.
      Good thing for the writers who want to write moronic, cliche’d simplistic dreck. They now have a bar very close to their level.

      I thought Brick was quite well done for the most part. Interesting and clever overall.

  • walker

    I have to ask how it is that a former hitman can be the hero of any movie. A hitman is a criminal who ends strangers’ lives because he is paid to do so. How can such amoral and sociopathic behavior be forgotten or atoned for? Because he loves his dog? Ok so now he is rehabilitated? What? Perhaps we should worry less about staging chases and fight scenes in industrial areas (I don’t know, because it’s cheap?) and ask ourselves why these puerile, cartoonish revenge fantasies (The Equalizer is another) appeal to us.

    • Scott Strybos

      In most instances the screenwriter makes it clear that the people the hitman killed were criminals themselves. Which audiences tend not to have a problem with. You get a pass if you are a hitman who murders mobsters and murders.

      • walker

        Sounds good, but maybe those screenwriters should get themselves some new crayons.

        • Adam W. Parker

          This is a great question. You could make a great movie just exploring these things and why they make us tick.

      • harveywilkinson

        The moral calculus gets blurry for instance in the nightclub scene — in any universe resembling our own, lots of innocent club goers are getting maimed/killed/hurt as a result of all the John Wick-inflicted carnage. Same with the FAST & FURIOUS guys demolishing banks and bus stops filled with innocent people in Rio slinging around a twelve ton safe as a wrecking ball. The filmmakers naturally don’t show innocent people getting brained and de-limbed on account of our heroes’ actions, but their actions are still pretty morally abhorrent.

        • Scott Strybos

          In the John Wick Universe, yes, innocent people were probably being maimed, paralysed, and killed. (Not by Wick, he had precision, but by the bullets from the Russians. who were defending themselves).

          But in the Fast and Furious Universe there are no innocent fatalities. After that bus crash, for example, a reporter said something along the lines of “surprisingly, no one was killed”.

          • harveywilkinson

            Right, but saying after the fact “surprisingly, no one was killed” doesn’t change the terrible moral decision of the characters, who obviously had no way of knowing whether or not anyone would get hurt or killed when they chose to flip and destroy a speeding bus populated with innocent prison guards with wives and kids waiting at home. Choosing to drive drunk is still a morally abhorrent choice, even if you manage not to hurt anyone.

            I didn’t see John Wick checking that the crowded floor was clear of innocent bystanders when he was throwing guys over railings. And bullets don’t magically stop in soft tissue. Even with a presumed 100% shooting accuracy, many of Wick’s bullets are continuing their trajectory after shredding Russian bad guy lungs.

          • filmklassik

            It’s movie logic, and nobody cares — not really. James Caan played a hardened unapologetic criminal-hero in THIEF (brilliant movie). McQueen and McGraw were unapologetic bank robber-heroes in THE GETAWAY (terrific). Bentkilco brought up the title bank robber in the great CHARLEY VARRICK. And what about Walter Hill’s underrated actioner about a getaway driver-hero in THE DRIVER?

            And let’s not forget THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ, UNFORGIVEN (Eastwood’s character — the de facto hero of the piece — is a former bloodthirsty killer and outlaw) and dozens and dozens and DOZENS of other movies.

            Amoral, ruthless heroes. Every single one of them. And once again, audiences don’t give a shit. Why should they?

          • brenkilco

            And one other Eastwood The Eiger Sanction, where his part time government assassin treads the line between amoral and sociopathic. There’s a scene where an enemy is begging Eastwood to shoot him but Clint is ticked and prefers to leave him to die slowly of thirst and exposure in the desert. Viewers were fine with it.

          • filmklassik

            Of course they were. Just like READERS were fine with Donald Westlake’s amoral thief Parker in 19 or 20 bestsellers. Lee Marvin, of course, went on to play Parker — renamed “Walker” — in the the classic motion picture POINT BLANK, and there is tremendous love for Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the character in PAYBACK (whose poster had the tag line: “Get ready to root for the bad guy!”)

            Once again: Nobody cares when the protagonist is a bad guy — even a killer. The only rule seems to be: Make sure the people he’s killing are MORE despicable and you’re good to go.

            Let’s not forget that TV audiences loved Tony Soprano and Walter White… and a huuuge cult has sprung up around Al Pacino’s character in SCARFACE.

            Nobody gives a shit.

          • filmklassik

            And my God, how could we forget Puzo and Coppola arousing audience sympathy for a Mafia clan (a fucking Mafia clan!!) in THE GODFATHER movies??

            The examples are almost too numerous to mention.

          • walker

            I love how you guys say “audiences are fine with it” as if that is an answer. And a huge cult has sprung up around Al Pacino’s character in Scarface. Boy I’m convinced now.

          • filmklassik

            But *isn’t* that an answer? *Aren’t* audiences fine with it? Why *wouldn’t* you be convinced?

            Seriously. Isn’t the spectacular success of BONNIE AND CLYDE and THE WILD BUNCH and THE GODFATHER and PULP FICTION and SCARFACE and THE SOPRANOS and *dozens* of other movies and shows proof enough that audiences are only too happy to accept amoral unrepentant killers as heroes?

          • Bacon Statham

            I’d say so. If you look at someone like The Man With No Name, he’s a complete bastard, yet you root for him because everyone else is much worse than he is.
            Or even Clint’s character in High Plains Drifter. He does a pretty despicable thing in that movie, but you still want him to kill the gang that beat him to death.
            I think the reason people respond well to these types of characters is because they represent the darker part of ourselves. We’ve all had those moments where we just wanna punch someone, but never did because it’s not something you do. Characters like John Wick play on that part of our lives.

          • filmklassik

            Exactly. These guys aren’t wiping out Mother Theresa. They’re mopping the floor with slimeballs. The scum of the earth. And that’s an important distinction. It doesn’t just make what they’re doing palatable, it makes it downright exhilarating.

          • walker

            Not to muddy the waters here, but Mother Theresa isn’t really all she’s cracked up to be.

          • walker

            Then you are essentially admitting that these characters are not heroic but merely vessels for the peddling of insipid revenge fantasies to a cowed and desensitized audience.

          • Bacon Statham

            Not every action hero has to be John McClane. Sometimes John Wick is exactly what an audience needs. The difference between McClane and Wick is that the former is a cop. So that automatically makes him a good guy in the eyes of the audience.

            Except both characters are essentially doing the same job, they’ve just got different methods of going about it. When you think about it, both characters are ridding the world of evil, so why is Wick looked down upon, but McClane is admired?

            What about a character like Jason Bourne? He’s an assassin who presumably killed bad people for the CIA. Terrorists, arms dealer, freelance assassins. What would you class him as? A hero like McClane or a villain like Wick?

          • walker

            I am not saying Wick is a villain. He is a surrogate for the audience in an unseemly revenge fantasy. To be honest I would liken it to pornography. I am willing to accept that the dude I am trying not to look at closely got that chick that I am studying in great detail, and good for him. But he is not a hero, and his arc is predetermined.

          • brenkilco

            I think this argument is not simple. Identification with amoral, criminal characters is not restricted to a vicarious enjoyment of revenge or participation in criminal acts. The appeal of these sorts of characters is as old as movies and has among other things to do with our natural identification with characters who will not be bound by the mores of society as well as our sympathy for the outcast. The Gangster as Tragic Hero is one of the more famous movie essays and I would have posted a link if I could have found a copy online. I think your point is more that truly amoral characters do not change. They are simply what they are. They have no flaw to bring them low or which they will eventually overcome. But no character worth following is monolithic. Wick, Bonnie and Clyde and the Wild Bunch are all amoral. But Wick loves his dog, Bonnie and Clyde love each other and The Wild Bunch ultimately affirm their loyalty to one another. And even a character who does not change may change the world around him. Audience relationships with such characters are complex.The line between protagonist and hero is easily blurred and the debate can becomes one of semantics.

          • walker

            Wow I thought Scarface was a total piece of crap. De Palma in full-on pale imitation mode. Pacino’s performance kitschy and embarrassing. But it’s true that generations of testosterone-addled puppies have memorized a couple of lines from the terrible script. Does that make Pacino’s character a hero? The film worthwhile? De Palma something other than a Cliff’s Notes hack? No.

          • filmklassik

            I happen to agree with you about SCARFACE. My main problem with that movie is, it’s boring. Despite a few inspired moments, the narrative is slack… there’s no real momentum to it… and certain scenes go on forever. But I think you are (perhaps deliberately?) avoiding my original question, so here it is again:

            Despite your own personal reservations about them, doesn’t the spectacular success of BONNIE AND CLYDE, THE WILD BUNCH, THE GODFATHER, PULP FICTION, SCARFACE, THE SOPRANOS… not to mention *dozens* of other movies and shows… indicate that audiences are only too happy to accept unrepentant, amoral killers as heroes?

          • walker

            I could not care less what audiences are willing to accept. It is a specious component of this discussion. In most of the examples you mention the characters are portrayed as tragic heroes, although often unconvincingly. If they are tragic heroes they are not amoral, their morality is out of balance. If they are actually unrepentant and amoral, then I will repeat what I said 7 hours ago: An amoral sociopathic character has a predetermined arc and is not a hero even when they are a main or central character.

          • filmklassik

            “I could not care less what audiences are willing to accept. It is a specious component of this discussion.”

            Forgive me, but that is *precisely* what we were discussing just now. It wasn’t about the relative merits of the films we cited (like I said, I completely agree with you about SCARFACE), but whether audiences can identify and sympathize with their amoral protagonists. And the answer is: They can, with no problem whatsoever.

            And insisting that Tony Montana or Bonnie & Clyde or Michael Correlone are not amoral, but people whose “morality is out of balance” is a distinction without a difference.

            You can carp all you want to, but audiences have no problem identifying with them, or with Fred MacMurray as he plots to kill Barbara Stanwyck’s innocent husband in DOUBLE INDEMNITY or William Hurt plotting to do the same thing for Kathleen Turner in BODY HEAT.

            Stone killers, all of them, yet as audiences we are caught up in their plight, and CRINGE as the authorities start closing in. Now, whether you personally have a problem with that is a separate issue, and a perfectly valid one, but it is not the point we were discussing.

          • walker

            I strongly disagree that it is a distinction without a difference, in fact that is why we have the separate concepts of immorality and amorality. A truly amoral figure cannot be a tragic hero. And again I question your default appeal to whether or not audiences can or will accept something to determine its validity in an artistic paradigm.

          • harveywilkinson

            You’re confusing several different issues — no one’s disputing that amoral characters and/or anti-heroes can and have made for compelling protagonists in stories since the beginning of storytelling — yes you can list everyone from King David to Walter White and on and on and on.

            What we’re talking about is when filmmakers conscientiously hide or elide or deceive audiences through certain devices or sleights-of-hand lest they disturb the audience’s rooting interest in a character and their questionable moral decisions.

            You say audiences don’t give a shit — well, why do the filmmakers bother hiding it, or give us silly “surprisingly, no one was hurt!” bits of v.o. Because they do care, and audiences do care, because audiences actually do care about the distinction between watching fascinating but despicable characters with fascination and actively rooting for characters. John Wick was clearly not an anti-hero — for starters, he would have killed Ms. Perkins without a thought — and the filmmakers were very deliberate in steering/manipulating the audiences in rooting *for* him; they killed his puppy for crying out loud. This storytelling approach really has nothing to do with the Scarfaces and Walter Munnys of the world.

          • filmklassik

            “…audiences actually do care about the distinction between watching fascinating but despicable characters with fascination and actively rooting for characters.”

            Well, of course they’re not gonna have John Wick blowing the head off a nine-year-old girl or raping a nun, but be honest: Wasn’t part of you rooting for William Hurt to get away with murder in BODY HEAT?

            And wasn’t part of you hoping McMurray and Stanwyck would get away with it also in DOUBLE INDEMNITY?

            And what about Garfield and Turner in the original POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE? Or Nicholson and Lange in the remake?

            Were you really, truly, pinky-swear rooting for all those amoral protagonists to be caught and punished for their misdeeds?

            Bet you weren’t.

            Nobody was.

            And that’s the power of cinema.

    • brenkilco

      I have to ask how it is that a former hitman can be the hero of any movie.

      It may be morally dubious but it’s not rare. Pulp Fiction, The Killers, Get Carter, Ghost Dog, This Gun For Hire. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for amoral and socioptathic protags. You’ve got outlaws(The Wild Bunch; bank robbers(Charlie Varrick); hardened criminals(Escape From Alcatraz); gangsters, grifters, pirates, mercenaries and hired guns too numerous to mention. So what’s new?

      • walker

        An amoral sociopathic character has a predetermined arc and is not a hero even when they are a main or central character.

    • klmn

      The formula for an antihero seems to be that as long as you’re killing the right people, anything goes. As long as James Bond was whacking Russians during the Cold War, everything’s cool. Later, he had to change his target to Smersh.

    • Bifferspice

      hmm, you don’t have to have a likeable protagonist. eg get carter. films can be fascinating even if we’re not meant to root for the character, we can still sneakily admire someone who’s good at what they do. in this case, however, it does sound pure revenge fantasy. not necessarily that we would like the guy, but we like bad people, bullies, to pick on the wrong person. we know if those russian gangsters picked on us, we’d cry and not be able to do anything about it. we want them to accidentally pick on someone higher up the food chain than they are, and watch as they get their asses handed to them. doesn’t mean we like the guy who’s doing it, and often in these things, the hero dies at the end too, as atonement, and maybe realises they were wrong all these years. nothing wrong with that as a premise, i think, (eg leon), but none of this is a comment on the film reviewed here, as i don’t know enough about it.

    • JakeMLB

      As long as the antagonist represents a greater evil, you’re almost always fine.

      • walker

        Sounds more like US foreign policy than screenwriting advice.

  • mulesandmud

    Halloween is on a Friday this year. Makes it a risky weekend in terms of box office; all the kids will be out partying.

    Instead, THE BABADOOK has Thanksgiving weekend, seemingly without much competition, which is a great strategy and a huge coup for a Sundance movie, even if it lacks the poetry of horror-movie-on-Halloween.

    And bear in mind, this isn’t a studio release; it’s being distributed by Cinetic and eOne. That means a different set of rules than the monolithic HW marketing machine. Those guys have it harder than studios, so there may be all kinds of other mitigating factors involved in the decision.

    Let’s hope it does well.

    • Bacon Statham

      If you’re talking about releasing a horror film during Halloween, then yeah you’re probably right in that it would be risky because all the teenagers and young adults would be out partying.
      But you’d be surprised at how many of them I see coming out of the cinema opposite the pub where the enemy works on a Friday and Saturday night. Most of them watch a film and then go out clubbing. I’ve done it myself with friends.

  • Gordon Parks

    Russians have become the go-to bad guys because they really exist and don’t have inconveniently dark skin tones. Wouldn’t want to get called a racist.

  • klmn

    OT: Evil Clown News.

    I suppose it was inevitable. You drive around in an itty-bitty car and it’s bound to affect you.

  • Linkthis83

    Based on all the JOHN WICK references Carson has made recently, I figured I should go see this because there was a huge chance it would be the Monday topic – I finally got one right! :)


    Unapologetic: I love stories that fall under this category, but it comes down to maintaining it that’s challenging. JW fell into the same scenario that EDGE OF TOMORROW did – they both reach a certain point where they become ordinary. In EOT, it was when they knew what they had to go after. Then it’s your standard infiltrate, evade/avoid, out duel, against all odds, desire or undesired outcome – and not very fulfilling.

    With JW, the moment this story lost all its moment for me was when John killed Iosef. That was what the whole thing was about. And the way that moment was delivered was unsatisfying, for me. Perhaps it’s because of what Carson highlights with the “industrial” setting that seemed inevitable. But the emotional core of the story is the thread from John to Iosef. Wants that’s severed, I was no longer attached.

    Then the movie went into what felt like added on material. With the Marcus character not really being developed, but his role understood, then it tried to make us care about him because John would. It got clunky after that and lost it’s unapologetic ways. And this clunkiness spanned from John, to Marcus, to Perkins, to Viggo etc. If they would’ve had time, I think they could’ve still used the Marcus angle, but change up the change of events. Iosef had to be the last one to die. He was John’s holy grail.

    There were a few nipicky things for me. One specific one was this: If John was this notorious, and has only been retired for 5-6 years, how does Iosef not know who he is? Especially if he use to do work for them. Thankfully, I didn’t really care about this that much, but I highlight it because it would be tough for me to write past if I was writing this story.

    In total agreement with Carson about The Continental. What a great and fun device. A safe haven for hitmen. That’s fantastic concept to play and this story does it well.

    A couple things the trailer ruined for me:

    1) The dog as a device: I understand you need to give people something in a trailer to make them want to come along on this ride, and as long as it’s first act info, it should be fair play, but I wish they would’ve found another way than the dog. I only say that, because it had no effect on me because I knew what the device represented.

    2) Perkins was the other problem. I knew her role in the film from the trailer, so the meeting at check-in didn’t matter to me because I knew the role she was going to play later – it removes any story impact from setup.

    This is why I usually only want to know premises for films. As people who breakdown stories, we intrinsically understand choices more than the daily, movie-going public – which is why we are so uber-critical.

    “For those of you who saw the movie, can you tell me if this worked on you? Were you aware of the manipulation? Was it too on-the-nose? Did that matter? I’m just curious how people didn’t see this as the most overt attempt at gaining hero sympathy… ever!”

    As I mentioned above, it didn’t work on me because of knowledge going in, but I did understand his connection to the death of the dog, so it makes complete sense as to why this would draw him out. I think “too on the nose” is something creators think about, and sometimes too much. So I think it being “overt” at gaining sympathy is another story-device we are familiar with pointing out – not the general masses. Our personalities are tied in with HOW the story is told.

    Up until the death of Iosef, I was enjoying this film a great deal. Way more than THE EQUALIZER. Way, way, way more.

    • Linkthis83

      OT: For the dog lovers out there, I read a book a while back called A Dog’s Purpose. It’s a great book. I shared it with my dad, who is one of those “the last time I cried gas was $1.08″ and it got to him (if that helps sell it any):

      • Poe_Serling

        Just recently caught this on DVD. It’s quite a tense thriller. Solid acting. Packs a real emotional punch.


        “A reclusive man sets out for justice and redemption when three troublesome teens kill his dog for no good reason.”

        Starring the always memorable Brian Cox in a rare lead role. Written by Stephen ‘The Grudge’ and based on the novel by Jack Ketchum.

        **Don’t watch the trailer – it gives away most of the plot.

        • Linkthis83

          It’s been added to the queue. :)

    • Bacon Statham

      I haven’t seen this yet (doesn’t hit the UK till January), but going off the trailer I think Iosef did know who John Wick was. When his father tells him ”it’s not what you did, it’s who you did it too”, Iosef replies with ”the nobody!”. It makes me think he knew of Wick and his reputation, but didn’t actually know it was Wick he beat up. He seemed kind of disbelieving. Like he couldn’t quite believe that he’d just kicked ”the Boogeyman’s” arse.

      • Linkthis83

        I took that reply to mean, “The guy whose car I took and dog I killed? That nobody was somebody?”

        Perhaps you are correct and I missed it. Always possible. But the way Iosef constantly reacts to this situation leads me to believe he’s completely unaware of John or his reputation. His father explains that John is the guy you send to kill the Boogeyman – Iosef wouldn’t need that explanation if he was aware. That’s my interpretation anyway.

        • Bacon Statham

          You’re probably right. I just remembered the scene in the trailer where he takes the car to John Leguizamo’s character who immediately recognises it. If Iosef knew of Wick, he’d probably know of the car, so he’d more than likely stay clear of it.

    • Kirk Diggler

      “But the emotional core of the story is the thread from John to Iosef. Once that was severed, I was no longer attached.”

      Excellent point. There was a certain nonchalance in the way this storyline came to a close. It was almost an after-thought. And I do think making Iosef such a simpering coward took away the possibility of a final showdown.

  • Mike.H

    For those who have seen BABADOOK trailer, would you pay $10 to see it or wait for DVD? And is the concept of OUIJA that strong that it opened $20M?

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      I’ve seen the whole movie (BABADOOK) and wouldn’t pay even $1 to see it again ^^

  • Mike.H

    p.s. If anyone has OUIJA pdf or BABADOOK… please send: MAY1MSG at GMAIL DOT COM. THANKS!

    • Craig Mack

      Ouija sent….

      • jgrey

        Craig, any chance I could get a copy of Ouija too?
        jgrey888 at yahoo dot com

  • scriptfeels

    I had to choose between john wick and birdman and chose birdman instead and holy **** did I love that movie. I’m probably going to watch john wick sometime in the next week though. I think john wick did a great job in its advertising/marketing department as well, I see ads on a lot of websites I browse and articles etc. that all portray the film positively. Looking forward to seeing it. The premise reminds me of seven psychopaths a little bit and I loved that film.

  • Poe_Serling

    Based on this info from the film’s facebook page, it looks like the filmmakers are actively trying to drum up business with some word-of-mouth marketing:

    “Because of the whinging and complaining you lot have been doing to all the cinemas near you, THE BABADOOK is going to grow its cinema screens this week in the UK from 147 to about 200 screens!

    Mister Babadook says ‘See?? Whining and complaining along with stand over tactics and sinister threats DO work!’

    So keep your eyes peeled to this link over the coming days and check for the new cinema additions in your area. This list will be updated all this week, up till Halloween. And if you want to keep whinging and complaining to your local cinema, this is certainly going to help ensure they play it. Tweet them, FBook them, just generally annoy the crap out of them!

    And for those of you in the US, we want you to enlist the same bully tactics starting NOW to make SURE it plays in a cinema near YOU Nov 28th. You’ve got to see this film on the big screen. So get started with your whining and complaining to your local cinemas right NOW!”

  • For The Lulz

    Okay, I’m definitely going to watch John Wick. I’m a huge action movie fan, and I do hope it does well at the BO. But still….

    ‘When a Russian gang kills a former hitman’s dog, he decides to take all of them down in an act of revenge’

    WHAT THE F**K!

    If I wrote this, I’d be blacklisted. I’m seriously considering never writing another action script ever again. I don’t have a f***ing chance, man!

    This movie better be good.

    • Bifferspice

      seems to me like if you’d written this, you wouldn’t be blacklisted, you’d be proudly celebrating your first written credit. unless you think this got made due to dolph pulling a few strings or something. it’s not like this guy has a hit parade of great films under his belt that made them trust him. i think you’re probably doing this script down by suggesting it’s ridiculous that it’s done well. it’s getting good reviews too.

      • For The Lulz

        You’ve completely misread my meaning.

        I’m not taking anything away from the writer, or even the movie itself. As I said in my post, I hope it does well. The blacklisted thing was a joke.

        Still, to be honest, I guess I’m just a little ticked that perhaps I’ve put a little too much effort into action movie concepts, and in the end this concept seems to boil down to ‘They killed his dog. He killed them in revenge’.

        I never at any point suggested it’s ridiculous it’s done well, and I’m not putting the film down. If anything, I’m annoyed at myself – ‘If ”I” wrote this ”I’d” be blacklisted….”I” don’t have a f***ing chance…’

        Put a bit of good ol’ fashioned writer self-put-down. Chill your beans.

        • Bifferspice

          it’s rare a concept is enough, in my opinion. it’s all about execution. sounds like they did a good job here.

  • harveywilkinson

    Speaking of cliches, was anyone present at the meeting when Hollywood collectively decided that all hit men and assassins must live in modernist houses? All those windows seem like an odd choice given their professional demands for security and anonymity.

    In the more unforgivable cliche category, why in 2014 is anyone still doing the “Villain Spouts Exposition to Restrained Hero Before Turning His Back and Leaving Hero Alone With Incompetent Henchmen and Just Enough Opportunity To Escape” thing? Like, seriously. There’s self-awareness in genre exercises and then there are things like that.

    Especially after our Villain made it clear he was terrified of John Wick and his capabilities and how he kills anyone and everyone at will in impossible circumstances, up to and including The Boogyman. But then instead of killing him when he’s got him tied down, he leaves him alone with two incompetent henchmen who plan on killing him with a plastic bag.

    Action was fun but got repetitive quick. Lots and lots and lots of arm-locks followed by close-range head shots. I’m sure the words “pink mist” were used a lot in the script.

    That being said, I think the film is a good example of the merits of a film being true to its ambitions; the filmmakers knew exactly what kind of film they were trying to make and delivered, which accounts for a large part of its 90% Rotten Tomato score. Films can and should be evaluated according to the scope of what they’re trying to be and accomplish, not in an absolute sense. It’s why JOHN WICK succeeded and Tyler Perry’s TEMPTATION failed — because one was aspiring to stylish genre exercise and one was aspiring to Biblical parable.

    • Bifferspice

      “But then instead of killing him when he’s got him tied down, he leaves
      him alone with two incompetent henchmen who plan on killing him with a
      plastic bag.” oh no they didn’t! hahahaha! really?? the ol’ james bond cliche still going strong…

    • Kirk Diggler

      “In the more unforgivable cliche category, why in 2014 is anyone still doing the “Villain Spouts Exposition to Restrained Hero Before Turning His Back and Leaving Hero Alone With Incompetent Henchmen and Just Enough Opportunity To Escape” thing? Like, seriously. There’s self-awareness in genre exercises and then there are things like that.”

      Spot on, but at this point in the film it’s exactly what you’d expect to happen, because after all, John Wick needs his new ‘lowpoint’, and getting captured and beat up and partially suffocated serves that purpose. And since you’ve already rolled your eyes so many times up to this point that your eyebrows have cramped up and the eyeroll is no longer possible, so you just shrug your shoulders and sigh as head bad guy leaves Wick with two henchman. Even in a ‘realistic’ action film, the god guy always escapes, so, yeah, it is what it is.

  • For The Lulz

    Done it.

    I wrote an action script where the climatic battle takes place in a garden….with a slowly shattering glass floor…..on the highest level….of an underground skyscraper.

    No dog murdering though. So it has no chance of ever being made.

  • jw

    I argue this all the time and people tell me I’m crazy, especially around here, but if you go all-in on a concept that can pull in some solid trailers and marketing, the script isn’t going to matter as much as it normally would (I know, gasp). The reason John Wick doesn’t WIN the box office is because they couldn’t put together a trailer that told the audience an ORIGINAL story. Not to mention the film bows to a non-sequel, unknown cast of a horror film, so let’s not get too carried away here. The reason it performs “above” analyst expectations, and I use that term lightly, is because of the solid publicity and people saying it’s not just a rehash of everything else Keanu has done, which is nice to hear after his recent debacles. The budget for this hasn’t been released and I’d be interested to see that. Regardless, some are saying this is Keanu’s Taken and allows him an ability to become “relevant” again. I can see that happening and outside of many people considering him a one-note actor (“what are you trying to say, I can dodge bullets?” – love that one!), I’d like to see a Keanu renaissance of sorts. Would definitely be interesting.

    • harveywilkinson

      Well, selling audiences with “solid trailers and marketing” is a lot harder and riskier than it sounds. Most distributors and studios saw the film earlier this year and passed.

      The production budget was almost certainly in the 12M-20M range, it was financed through foreign pre-sales and 20M is generally the upper range of this type of genre programmer using that model. Wouldn’t surprise me if they made it for about 12M. Getting anything from the domestic theatrical markets is just gravy. 15M opening weekend on a movie financed this way — and that didn’t even have a domestic distributor a few months ago — is a big success for everyone involved.

      • jw

        The question is WHY? Why did they “pass” and they likely passed because there’s nothing new here. Yes, it has an element of a “hotel” set that is different than other things (as Carson pointed out), but at the root core of WHAT this film is, it’s basically everything we’ve already seen. Yet, I haven’t really heard it bashed here at all, in fact, quite the opposite. Even though it’s core catalyst is someone killing a dog (cringe worthy to say the least). And, in terms of “solid trailers & marketing” THAT is the reason it was set to open between $7 to $10 mill, and ended up doing double that. Decent trailer can equal a decent haul. Again, it can go a very, very long way. The real key is an original storyline. If they would have had an original storyline and some cool shots they could have included, that $15 million would have been $30. But, I think they took lemons and made lemonade. Good for them!

        • Bacon Statham

          ”The question is WHY? Why did they “pass” and they likely passed because there’s nothing new here.”
          But that kind of thinking doesn’t hold up when you look at something like Unknown. Except that didn’t do anything new. To use your words, it has that unique element of his wife pretending to not know who he is, but at its root core, it’s still about a man with amnesia trying to get his memories back. Just like The Bourne Identity.
          So how can you say that the studios passed because there was nothing new to it, when that clearly couldn’t have been the case.

          • jw

            There’s a part of that though that you need to examine. And, that is the part of how you define “nothing new”. Of course, you could say with a very, very broad brushstroke that ALL amnesia is introducing NOTHING new, but even in the part you mentioned, what was it that differentiated it from Bourne? The fact that those around him were telling him he was crazy. It’s like waking up in a bad dream and that wasn’t the case in Bourne. Let’s also remember that Unknown did nowhere near Taken’s numbers. So, if you look at it from an objective perspective it makes complete sense — capitalizing on the hit that was Taken, they released this film in between, half of its box office likely coming from the “high” that Neeson was on, so take away that high (or the low that Keanu is at right now) and you’d have a $30 million dollar film, exactly the number that I stated would be the case had the storyline to this film been somewhat “unique”.

  • Bifferspice

    i’m rubbish with horror. i find most horror films are just plain nasty and don’t really work for me, but still make me feel kind of dirty after. it seems to really convey just what a horrible species we can be and what a horrible cruel place the world can be, even if the monsters portrayed aren’t to be taken literally. yet, horror films with a heart, that convey human emotions at their core, they can really affect me. i still love don’t look now, because of their trying to deal with the grief of losing their little girl, and the sixth sense, because of how lost and frightened the little boy is, as well as being invested in bruce willis’s character how he couldn’t seem to help him, and they stayed with me long after watching them. they had all the effects i would want a film to have on me, and i think, looking at the babadook trailer, it might do the same. and i am so often disappointed in films at the cinema these days, that i want to see that. but the trailer fucked me up, so imagine what the film would do! hahaha! i’m such a wuss. and i have a boy similar age to the kid in the film, and the trailer seems to suggest some issues of whether they might harm each other, and if the film goes that way, it’s going to fuck me up for weeks! i have no idea whether to see it or not, but it looks such a good film, and the reviews seem to bear this out, that i feel i should man the hell up and go see it.

  • Kirk Diggler

    For me the definition of a good film, is one that I’d like to see again. John Wick does not fall into that category. Not that there wasn’t some good stuff in it that made it different, some of which Carson mentions. And there was a sense of humor throughout the film.

    But there was virtually no characterization. Shocking in a Keanu Reeves film, I know. And Carson nails it again, the 2nd half of the film is one of diminishing returns. I was a bit bored.

    So despite some interesting takes on old tropes, ultimately it was nothing more than a shoot em up with an unusually large body count, one in which the danger to our protagonist never felt real. Unless you were Keanu’s friend or colleague, in which case you better have your life insurance in order. I’d give it a C.

  • klmn

    Keanu’s next role.!

    Here’s how he can look even more badass in his next movie. He’ll play this guy:

  • charliesb

    The avenging the death of the dog worked for me, not just because the dog was a connection to his dead wife, but because it reminded me of part of the plot from Payback.
    Porter has his share of the heist taken from him and he wants it back, everyone assumes he wants the whole 140,000. But he only wants 70,000. No one can understand why he’s going crazy over 70,000, but that’s not what matters, what matters is that it’s important to Porter.

    John Wick had that dog for probably less than a week before it was killed. Yes he connected to it (it was frigging adorable) but it’s the fact that it he got it from his wife that made it matter. I actually expected them to play this up more, with people assuming that this was about the car, or maybe rumours that he had been hired by another mobster to take out Viggo. And then having all these henchmen being surprised to find out it was about the dog all along.

    I also thought that they were going to go a little deeper into the idea that John had left a life that he was not only great at, but enjoyed (who wouldn’t want to be the babayaga), to be with a woman who ended up dying of cancer. That life was represented in that house and that dog, and he needed to know that it was worth something. That losing his wife wasn’t punishment for what he’d done before and that he could still leave the hitman life behind.

    Still I was fine with what we got. Like Carson, I thought the second half needed work, and the final fight between Wick and Viggo was ridiculous. Hopefully if this gets a sequel, they’ll get a tighter script.

  • Randy Williams

    Silence Of The Lambs was released on Valentine’s Day.

    The closer you release a horror picture to the Oscars the better chances it has to win one. :)

  • walker

    Hey Bruce thanks for the encouragement, but I don’t think you could have missed my point more thoroughly.

  • mulesandmud

    I know, I know. But cut them some slack.

    Ouija was released by Universal, Annabelle by Warner Brother. THE BABADOOK can’t compete with those marketing campaigns, and even if they could, they’d be splitting their audience when, with a little compromise, they could have a weekend to themselves.

    Bottom line: if you like the idea that people get to make movies like THE BABADOOK, then you want those movies to make money. That way, we prove the model works, and we get more producers and financiers who are willing to take risks on interesting projects and emerging creatives.

  • Meta5

    Keanu talks about Passengers and Bill and Ted 3.

  • Midnight Luck

    WORST FUCKING MOVIE in the last 100 years

    Pisses me off this is considered a worthy movie.

    Terrible, cliched dialogue.
    Terrible, cliched scenes.
    Nothing had me care about a single character in the film (except the Dog, and the dog didn’t need to do anything except be a dog). I didn’t know anything about any of the characters, except that he was JOHN WICK, because everyone keeps saying it over and fucking over. (Yeah, great fucking writing, reminds me of another Keanu shit-film: The Matrix. “What is the Matrix? What is the Matrix? Do you know what the Matrix is? What is the Matrix?”)

    Absolutely devoid of a script. I could have written this whole script in 5 pages.
    Lame, lame, and triple lame on every level.

    This movie made ABSOLUTELY NO unique choices. I have no idea where you are coming from Carson. There wasn’t a single thing unique or interesting here.

    I almost left half way through because it was too painful.
    Painfully BAD. And no I don’t mean BAD in the GOOD way, I mean BAD BAD.

    I mean, come on, the ENTIRE movie was pure CONVENIENCE writing. How can you call this good? Makes me wonder.

    SCENE: So Wick has everyone after him. Bad Russian guy puts a $2 mill price on his head, hires his best bud to do it, tells the girl he’ll double it if she kills him in the Hotel because it is against the rules. Everyone has instructions to take him down.

    So what happens when they get him?
    All I could think is, “please don’t pull a 007 scene now.”
    And what do you know? Everyone wants to kill him, the Bad Russian guy has bounty’s everywhere on him, and instead they tie him to a flimsy chair?
    The Bad Russian guy spouts some lame nothing dialogue, then nods at the two losers to kill him, and walks away, not making sure they kill him?
    I mean give me a fucking break! This was so bad and stupid I think the writers should be shot. Come on, how can you get more lame than this?

    Then at the end, in the final fight scene with The Bad Russian Guy, Keanu walks up and BRG says “No more guns”, and Keanu throws his onto the ground and says “No more guns. Just you and me”. And then they put their fists up.

    I mean, what the FUCK? This is literally the LAMEST FUCKING THING I have seen since BREAKIN’ 2, THE ELECTRIC BUGALOO.

    Stupid, stupid fucking bullshit.

    Yeah it fucking pisses me off.
    No one cares about quality, or skill, or writing or anything anymore.

    Just give them muscle cars, some bimbos, a bunch of guns, violence, blood, gore, a few lame scenes with dialogue, and a shitload of fight scenes and everyone will love it.

    • Scott Chamberlain

      Not seen the film, but bugger me that was funny to read.

      • Midnight Luck

        You think I’m funny? Funny like I amuse you? Go on, tell me again how fucking funny you think I am.

        • Scott Chamberlain

          It’s funny, you know. It’s a good story, it’s funny, you’re a funny guy.

        • kenglo

          LMFAOOO!!!! Pesci was a dream in Goodfellas….Good one …

    • brittany

      But, how do you REALLY feel, Midnight? :P

      • Midnight Luck

        I could go on with %&#@&- expletives if you would like. If my point didn’t effectively make it across.

    • charliesb

      Why in God’s name did you see this film? I’m not asking this to challenge your opinion, I’m honestly curious. Everything that this movie was, was pretty evident in the trailer. Every review was pretty clear on what it was, in fact it really seemed like this movie was screaming at you to not watch it.

      So what made you buy a ticket?

      • Midnight Luck

        I saw the preview and thought it was interesting. (they faked me out there)

        I have seen everything else available in theaters here, and wanted to go to the movies. I had made a point of not reading any reviews or anything about it before I went. (ever since GONE GIRL was coming out, I got into an overly paranoid position of not wanting anyone to “Reveal” anything I don’t want to know about a movie, accidentally). I don’t like to get surprised by someone telling me twists in the movie. I like to go in fresh. It is really irritating when someone says “wow, didn’t you love it when the daughter is revealed as the killer?”, assuming I have already seen it. And since I love to talk movies they think I want to chat about that movie. I didn’t even read the Scriptshadow article until late last night, After I saw the movie.

        Well, shit, now it is working against me. I should have looked, read, or investigated something about the movie, because now it is really irritating that they got my money for this P.O.S., AND that they made the preview look good enough that it drew me in.

        Keanu is so completely Hit or Miss. It is hard to gauge his projects. I mean I have an odd soft spot for Point Break, and really enjoyed Speed. But most of all the rest of his work is garbage. (yes including Matrix)

        Guess I was hoping for this to be closer to one of his good action projects or a FIFTH ELEMENT kind of actioneer.

        My randiness is cooling off finally.

  • KyleGo

    Speaking of killing dogs, RENT, a musical, starts off with the lead character singing a catchy song about how happy he is about a dog he accidentally killed. A FISH NAMED WANDA kills three dogs and gets its laughs showing the horror on their owner’s face. When they previewed the film it wasn’t getting the laughs they expected because they showed the killings on camera. So they cut it to just showing the dead dog’s blood and the laughs came.

    Maybe I should try writing for the species I belong to. Writing for humans just isn’t working out for me.

  • Glenn

    I would love to read the script, if available.


  • Scott Chamberlain

    Babadook is an Aussie indie, not a Hollywood film. One of the producers is based in Canberra (my home town and our National Capital). It probably needs to build it’s audience. Go to US too early and it’ll fade away on a handful of screens. Later release on more screens beats a Halloween release on bugger all screens.
    Australia has a thing called the Producer Offset. You get up to 40% rebate on your film from the Australian Tax Office if it meets certain criteria. One of those criteria is a theatrical release in Australia – where Australian films do comparatively poorly. So, they release on the minimum number of screens in Australia to get their Producer Offset and then try to conquer the world through word of mouth.
    We actually need to do film the same way we do wood chips and paper and iron ore and steel – export raw product to larger markets and then import refined form at cheaper rates. An Aussie film is more profitable for all concerned if has already had $10 mil spent on international marketing and then sold in Australia as a international film, than if it has $100k spent on Aussie marketing after which it bombs at the box office and then struggles to get international distribution.

  • mulesandmud

    I’m not saying the premise can’t work, just that it’s absurd, and if it’s going to be done well, we better get some perspective on that.

    Let’s try to keep in mind: even if the psychological math all adds up, even if his wife died tragically and he’s looking for closure, even if puppies are cute, even if Russians are evil, even if there are boutique hotels for hitmen…even accepting all that, a person who goes on a killing spree because their dog died is called a psychopath. If the movie doesn’t reconcile that somehow, then the story can never rise above self-parody.

    I haven’t watched it, so I can’t rate its success, though some pretty smart people seem to think it does just fine. There’s no problem here at all, just a conversation.

    • Dave Clary

      The man was the greatest, most brutal assassin the Russian mob had ever seen.

      Psychopath works here.

  • Robert Forester-Lake

    However you try to dress it up, the film was just a fatuous and cynically sentimental excuse for the usual, predictable, tedious onslaught of foolish and boring violence. As this moronic drivel is especially mindless and violent, it will make a lot of money. To write at length and with depth and seriousness about this trash which exploits the worst in foolish and/or juvenile people is as grotesque as it is incongruous.