The John Wick movies have earned themselves a place in cinema history as some of the best action movies ever made, with John Wick: Chapter 4 serving as a standout entry. The franchise has continued to push the envelope of what is possible in action movies and delivered some utterly dazzling action sequences. While its style of hand-to-hand combat blended with martial arts seems original, the John Wick franchise has taken inspiration from an action sub-genre that has been around for decades.
While John Wick has taken the Gun Fu genre into new realms, there is still a selection of Gun Fu entries from the past that stand the test of time. Hollywood is constantly improving its movies due to advancements in technology like CGI, but action movies have always had the ability to stand out above the rest as, if done right, they require no special effects. In action, choreography can make or break a film. And the Gun Fu genre heavily relies on solid choreography. Here are the five best Gun Fu movies like John Wick.
1. Bullet In The Head
In the late 1980s, famed action director, John Woo, originated his own style of action movie that would later be referred to as “Gun Fu.” The style of action was fast-paced, blink and you’ll miss it, and utterly captivating. It blended highly complex martial arts with firearms to create a cohesive fighting system. While Woo made his mark with Gun Fu in his 80s movies, A Better Tomorrow and The Killer, it was Bullet To The Head that really shot the genre into mainstream recognition.
The crime drama had echoes of a Scorsese gangster picture but was spliced with exhilarating action sequences that made moviegoers jaws’ drop. The action was relentless and like nothing cinema had seen before. It has since gone on to inspire many action directors, stuntmen, and martial artists alike, and is regarded by many as one of the greatest action movies ever made.
2. Hard Boiled
Two years after Bullet In The Head, John Woo upped the ante with Hard Boiled. Woo’s follow-up solidified his signature style of “Gun Fu”, and proved he had now perfected the genre that he famously created. The movie follows two cops, Tequila (Chow Yun-fat) and Alan (Tony Leung), as they battle an underground arms dealer while a deadly gang war rages on the streets.
Hard Boiled has since become a cult classic, inspiring heaps of Hollywood directors and revolutionizing action cinema with its unique blend of violence, emotion, and operatic spectacle moments. It also put Woo on the map as the go-to action director, allowing him to cross the pond and make his foray into Hollywood movies. Woo made his Hollywood debut with Hard Target starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and followed up with Broken Arrow, and the action classic Face/Off starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta.
While Desperado is not strictly a Gun Fu movie, it boasts some action sequences that well and truly fall into the genre and draws definite inspiration from movies like Hard Boiled and Bullet In The Head. Desperado was written and directed by Robert Rodriguez and follows El Mariachi, a former musician and gunslinger who turns up in a small Mexican town with a guitar case full of guns, looking to exact revenge. The movie’s action scenes are surely some of the best ever caught on film and blend hand-to-hand combat and guns masterfully. Desperado boasted a stellar cast including Antonio Banderas, Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, and Salma Hayek.
4. The Matrix
The Matrix was a truly original action spectacular and completely revolutionized the way action movies were made. Its style was totally unique and its special effects were unprecedented, but there are some massive influences from the Gun Fu genre present. However, the difference with The Matrix compared to other action movies was that it didn’t simply mimic the Gun Fu genre, it expanded upon it and placed it inside a world that it had never been to before. The Matrix has gone down as one of the greatest movies ever made, sitting at number 16 on IMDB’s Top 250 Movies of All Time list. It also catapulted Keanu Reeves into new realms of fame, molding him for his lengthy career in action movies like John Wick.
Equilibrium is a 2002 movie from director Kurt Wimmer set in an oppressive world where emotion is illegal and punishable by death. While the movie was slated by critics and didn’t perform well at the box office, it has aged extremely well and has grown a cult following in the post-John Wick era. The movie follows John Preston (Christian Bale), a top-ranking enforcement officer tasked with suppressing emotion and maintaining balance in the society. When he begins to experience feelings for the first time after missing a dose of his emotion-hindering drug, he decides to rebel against the society’s oppressive regime.
Equilibrium is full of stunning action sequences and instead of taking direct inspiration from John Woo’s Gun Fu genre, director Kurt Wimmer, set out to formulate his own – labeling it “Gun Kata.” Wimmer has described the fighting style as taking the gun and using it as a total weapon. Each fluid position is intended for a maximum kill zone and aimed to inflict damage on as many opponents as possible. While it is a totally unique style, it’s very clear where Kurt’s influence came from, and many moviegoers would still hail John Woo the master of Gun Fu.
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