Gun Kata

Baông chồng in năm trước, Lionsgate had a minor box-office success with John Wiông xã, a Keanu Reeves vehicle about a finely dressed assassin avenging the death of his beloved dog. (It was a really xinh đẹp dog.) The film’s off-kilter world-building, and immaculate fight scenes earned it a cult fandom, and eventually, a franchise: This week brought the first trailer for the John Wiông xã sequel, as well as news of a potential third installment. But the film isn’t just notable for kicking off what seems lượt thích a legitimate Keanu comebaông chồng — it’s also a superb gateway drug khổng lồ the wild world of gun fu.

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Gun fu has its roots in kung fu, the martial-arts genre that came out of Hong Kong và, thanks to lớn the virtuosity of performers lượt thích Bruce Lee & Jackie Chan, became a worldwide phenomenon in the 1970s. (Kung fu, meanwhile, has its roots in wuxia; recent examples of the latter include Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon & Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Assassin. Everything comes from somewhere!) In these movies, martial-arts masters would fight off comically large hordes of adversaries, or other martial-arts masters, in choreographed set-pieces halfway between brawling và ballet.

In the 1980s, director John Woo took this style of action và cleverly added guns, combining the elegance & precision of kung fu with the brutality and violence of gangster movies. This genre, also referred khổng lồ as Heroic Bloodshed, reached its zenith with the three-minute-long one-take shot in Woo’s Hard Boiled, among the greachạy thử action sequences ever filmed. Woo’s innovation was khổng lồ treat cinematic gunplay as an aesthetic, not just frenetic, experience. He shot his action scenes with deliberate precision và panađậy, upping the ante in every respect: Woo gave Chow Yun-fat two guns instead of one, made extensive use of slow motion, & had his heroes và villains expend as many bullets as possible. If Sam Peckinpah invented the modern gunfight (và the editing techniques that help render it) in The Wild Bunch, Woo found the iconography within these scenes và heightened it to a point where the weaponized combat became an art in & of itself.

If Woo turned Peckinpah into modern dance, then the Wachowskis made Woo pop art. The genius of The Matrix comes from the fact that it combines so many different influences into lớn a coherent new thing. It’s a movie that is at once gun fu và kung fu, filtered through sci-fi và comic-book lenses as well as the best special effects available at the time — & the most possible amount of leather. The Wachowskis’ decision lớn employ Yuen Woo-ping as fight choreographer played a crucial role in making this work. Yuen, the maestro behind kung-fu classics lượt thích Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master, brought his knack for orchestrating impossibly crowded battles to lớn the Wachowskis’ ambitious set-pieces. (Unsurprisingly, John Wick’s directors, longtime stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, also worked on The Matrix series.) Yuen’s influence on Hollywood would eventually extkết thúc well beyond Neo; he’d later work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as well as Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino’s direct homage to kung fu. 

As nature demands, the success of The Matrix made its own ripples in the gun fu tradition, of which the height — or nadir, depending on your appetite for extreme stylistic indulgence, và, uh, guns — is probably “gun kata,” the fighting style introduced in Kurt Wimmer’s Equilibrium, a movie in which Christian Bale’s character kills 118 people. Gun kata takes the implied martial artistry of Woo’s armed warriors & makes it literal, suggesting an actual science & technique to gunfighting that involves the toàn thân và movement, beyond simply pointing and shooting a gun at someone else. Creative as this approach may have sầu been, Wimmer’s gun kata movies were brutalized by critics, và it’s more of an offshoot of the gun-fu genre than a real evolution.

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But as cyberpunk fell out of favor, the next generation of gun fu looked beyond The Matrix, going bachồng to the origins of the khung. In 2011, Welsh director Gareth Evans released The Raid: Redemption, which starred Indonesian martial artist Iko Uwais as a policeman battling an entire apartment tower. The Raid took from Woo the idea of one man fighting through one location và an insane number of enemies, but stripped away everything else that might distract from it, creating one of the most concentrated doses of action ever put on film. It was a critical hit & an international cult favorite; it made a star out of Uwais and spawned a sequel, The Raid 2, in năm trước.

The Raid and Wiông chồng franchises — along with a few other titles, like Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass & Kingsman, Timur Bekmambetov’s Wanted, Ilya Naishuller’s Hardcore Henry, & even Tarantino’s Django Unchained — represent the lathử nghiệm wave sầu of gun fu. These new films’ protagonists aren’t just martial artists — they’re now secret agents, superheroes, runaway slaves, assassins, and, really, anyone who can hold a gun.

At the same time, because these movies are so stylized & unrealistic — & despite their sky-high body counts and general lionization of firearms — they seem lớn have sầu mostly avoided the increased politicization of guns in real life. The ripped-from-the-headlines vibe of a movie lượt thích Jason Bourne makes the central role of a handgun in its sale ripe for suggestions that it exploits recent real-life violence, because Jason Bourne is supposed to take place in the real world. But gun-fu movies tkết thúc to be closer lớn video clip games or other fantastical entertainments; the gunplay might be made to lớn look cool, but it’s also obviously giả. Rightly or wrongly, that seems khổng lồ exempt it from the same accusations of insensitivity, particularly when the stylized violence of video clip games lượt thích the Gr& Theft Auto and điện thoại tư vấn of Duty franchises is so much more immersive và intense. 

John Wick: Chapter 2 isn’t likely to lớn change the debate over gun violence onscreen, nor will it seek to bởi so. The bigger question is whether it can remain as fresh & surprising as the first one now that we’ve sầu seen what it has up its sleeve. (Hint: it’s a gun.)

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