Tactical Shooting/Martial Arts: John Wick

John is a man of focus. Commitment. Sheer will.

– Viggo Tarasov in John Wick (2014)

John Wick (2014) is a revenge movie that almost entirely relies on its action scenes. Story-wise, all we need to know is that John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a former hit man who comes out of retirement to exact his revenge on an army of Russian mobsters.

John Wick came out after the publication of GURPS Gun Fu and GURPS Tactical Shooting and therefore was not analysed in GURPS terms for those books. Note that I mention both books, which were originally written as mutually exclusive variations on a similar theme. In general, Tactical Shooting serves to model realistic gunfights, while Gun Fu is intended for over-the-top, totally cinematic gunplay. My initial reaction to this film was that it is Gun Fu, but on review and reflection the movie as a whole is certainly cinematic, set in an alternate New York that is almost out of a graphic novel, but most of the actual fight components are not. In fact, it can be used with considerable success to visualize many elements found in Tactical Shooting and GURPS Martial Arts.

Shooting Dice_TS_John Wick

To make things manageable, I am concentrating here on the scene in the Red Circle Bar, and specifically on the action between the moment he enters the lounge and the moment he exits again. Watch just the scene here (the action starts at 4:25). Some different angles are shown in the Making Of (the action starts at 3:00).

Stop reading if you want to avoid SPOILERS.

Round per Round

Prelude: John Wick is an assassin (GURPS Action 1: Heroes, p. 7) entering the lounge of the Red Circle Bar, holding his 9×19mm H&K P30L pistol. It has been fitted with a muzzle compensator (Tactical Shooting, p. 76) and is presumably loaded with hollow-points (GURPS High-Tech, pp. 166-167, and Tactical Shooting, p. 78). He carries three 15-round magazines and has already emptied one; we do not see him reloading but I will assume here that he has, since he has previously fired 16 shots (15+1 in the chamber), reloads once during this scene, and is out of ammunition shortly after the scene. Upon entry, Wick employs the Extended Position of the Centre Axis Relock (CAR) shooting style, a compact two-handed handgun stance (Tactical Shooting, pp. 11-12) optimized to work with the Close-Quarters Battle (Pistol) technique (Tactical Shooting, p. 43) and Retain Weapon (Pistol) technique (Tactical Shooting, p. 45). As he enters the lounge, he scans left and right to be aware (Tactical Shooting, p. 11) of possible opponents. As he turns to the right, Red Shirt #1 comes into sight.

1st Second: At his turn, Wick takes a Dual-Weapon Attack manoeuvre (p. B417) and performs a melee attack and a ranged attack almost simultaneously (Tactical Shooting, p. 25). Wick grapples Red Shirt #1 with his left hand; -4 (off hand) (Martial Arts, p. 124) -4 (Dual-Weapon Attack) = -8 to Judo. Wick probably has the Off-Hand Weapon Training (Judo) perk (Martial Arts, p. 50), as most styles train both sides, bringing down the penalty to -4. Wick succeeds, while Red Shirt #1 fails his defence; -1 (grappled) to Dodge. Wick almost simultaneously fires two one-handed (Tactical Shooting, p. 11) unsighted (Tactical Shooting, p. 13) hip shots (Tactical Shooting, pp. 11, 25) at the torso of Red Shirt #1; -2 (Bulk) -4 (Dual-Weapon Attack) = -6 to Guns (Pistol). The Close-Hip Shooting technique (Tactical Shooting, p. 43) would allow him to ignore the -2 penalty. He might even have the Dual-Weapon Attack (Judo/Pistol) technique (p. B230, and Martial Arts, p. 83) to buy off the -4 penalty. Note that the technique is considered cinematic for unarmed attacks (requiring the Trained by a Master advantage) but realistic for Guns (Pistol). Given that the combination is actually trained by tactical shooters, it has to be considered realistic as well. Wick makes his roll by 2 or more, Red Shirt #1 fails his Dodge roll. Both shots hit Red Shirt #1 in the torso for twice 2d+2 pi+ (average 26 points) damage; Red Shirt #1 is at -1×HP or less (p. B419). The two major wounds (p. B420) to the torso force two HT rolls to avoid knockdown and a HT roll to avoid instant death. Red Shirt #1 fails at least one of these and is down.

2nd Second: At his turn, Wick grips his pistol with both hands and changes back to the Extended Position shooting stance. This would ordinarily require a Ready manoeuvre (p. B383), but Wick has the Grip Mastery (Pistol) perk (Tactical Shooting, p. 39), which allows him to do this as a free action. He then takes an All-Out-Attack (Determined) manoeuvre to fire one two-handed sighted shot at the head of the suddenly appearing Red Shirt #2; +0 (range) -2 (Pop-Up Attack) (Tactical Shooting, p. 11) +1 (All-Out Attack) -7 (skull hit location) = -8 to Guns (Pistol). Wick almost certainly has the Cool Under Fire perk (Tactical Shooting, p. 38), which negates the Pop-Up Attack penalty, bringing the penalty down to -6. He probably has Targeted Attack (Pistol/Skull) to bring down the total penalty to -5 or -3. Wick succeeds and Red Shirt #2 fails his Dodge roll. Red Shirt #2 is hit in the skull for four times (2d+2 pi+ – DR 2) damage after penetration (average 40 points); Red Shirt #2 is at -1×HP or less. Due to the major wound to the skull, he must make a HT-10 roll to avoid knockdown and a HT roll to avoid instant death. Red Shirt #2 fails at least one of these and goes down.

3rd Second: Wick takes an Attack manoeuvre and fires one unsighted shot under his arm pit at Red Shirt #3 behind him; +0 (range) -2 (Pop-Up Attack) -7 (behind the back shot) = -9 to Guns (Pistol). Again the Cool Under Fire perk might bring this down to -7. He probably has the Behind-the-Back-Shot technique to bring down the total penalty to -6 (Tactical Shooting, p. 43) or -4. Wick succeeds and Red Shirt #3 fails his Dodge roll. Red Shirt #3 takes one hit in the torso for 2d+2 pi+ (average 13 points) damage. This is a major wound and he is at 0 HP or less. Red Shirt #3 fails his HT roll and is stunned, but not knocked down (despite p. B420). Red Shirt #3 is forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre. He makes his HT roll to avoid unconsciousness.

4th Second: Wick takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre, turning fully and raising his pistol again to fire one two-handed sighted shot at the head of Red Shirt #3; +0 (range) +1 (All-Out Attack) -7 (skull hit location) = -6 to Guns (Pistol). Wick succeeds and Red Shirt #3 fails his defence; -4 (stunned) to Dodge. Red Shirt #3 is hit in the skull for four times (2d+2 pi+ – DR 2) damage after penetration (average 40 points); he is now at -1×HP or less, if not -5×HP. Due to the major wound to the skull, Red Shirt #3 must make a HT-10 roll to avoid knockdown and a HT roll to avoid instant death. He fails at least one of these and goes down.

5th Second: Wick takes a Move manoeuvre and takes three steps. Red Shirt #4 takes a Move and Attack manoeuvre and grabs for Wick’s pistol (p. B370); -4 (hand hit location) to DX or grappling skill. Wick makes a successful Dodge roll.

6th Second: Wick takes a Dual-Weapon Attack manoeuvre and performs a melee attack and a ranged attack simultaneously. Wick grapples the arm of Red Shirt #4 with his left hand; -1 (1/2 arm hit location) (pp. B370, 399) -4 (off hand) -4 (Dual-Weapon Attack) = -9 to Judo. With the Off-Hand Weapon Training (Judo) perk and the Dual-Weapon Attack (Judo/Pistol) technique, the total penalty can be brought down to -1. Wick makes his roll, Red Shirt #4 fails his Dodge roll. Red Shirt #4 is grappled. Wick almost simultaneously fires one one-handed unsighted hip shot at the torso of Red Shirt #4; -2 (Bulk) -4 (Dual-Weapon Attack) = -6 to Guns (Pistol). The Close-Hip Shooting (Pistol) technique and Dual-Weapon Attack (Judo/Pistol) technique would allow him to ignore the penalties. Wick succeeds and Red Shirt #4 fails his defence; -1 (grappled) to Dodge. Red Shirt #4 takes one hit in the torso for 2d+2 pi+ (average 13 points) damage. This is a major wound and he is at 0 HP or less. Red Shirt #4 fails his HT roll and is stunned, but not knocked down. Red Shirt #4 is forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre. He makes his HT roll to avoid unconsciousness.

7th Second: Wick takes an Attack manoeuvre and throws Red Shirt #4 using his left hand (Martial Arts, p. 75). This is a Quick Contest of Wick’s Judo skill vs. the highest of Red Shirt #4’s ST, DX, or best grappling skill. Wick is at -4 (off hand) unless he has the Off-Hand Weapon Training (Judo) perk, while Red Shirt #4 is at -4 (stunned). Wick wins and Red Shirt #4 falls to his left. Red Shirt #4 is still stunned and forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre.

8th Second: Wick takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre and fires one two-handed sighted shot at Red Shirt #4’s head; +0 (range) +1 (All-Out Attack) -7 (skull hit location) = -6 to Guns (Pistol). Wick succeeds and Red Shirt #4 fails his defence; -4 (stunned) to Dodge. Red Shirt #4 is hit in the skull for four times (2d+2 pi+ – DR 2) damage after penetration (average 40 points); he is now at -1×HP or less, if not -5×HP. Due to the major wound to the skull, he must make a HT-10 roll to avoid possible unconsciousness and a HT roll to avoid instant death. He fails at least one of these and is out.

9th Second: Wick takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre and fires one two-handed sighted shot at Red Shirt #5, who has suddenly appeared; +0 (range) -2 (Pop-Up Attack) +1 (All-Out Attack) = -1 to Guns (Pistol). The Cool Under Fire perk would bring it to +1. Wick’s shot misses. Because of the close call, Red Shirt #5 has to make a Fright Check (p. B360), which he fails. He is mentally stunned and forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre.

10th Second: Wick takes an Attack manoeuvre and punches Red Shirt #5 with his left fist; -4 (off-hand) to Karate. With the Off-Hand Weapon Training (Karate) perk, the penalty would be +0. Wick succeeds and Red Shirt #5 fails his active defence roll; -4 (stunned) to Dodge. He takes thr+1 cr damage (assuming Karate at DX+1 or higher). Red Shirt #5 is still stunned and forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre.

11th Second: Wick takes an Attack manoeuvre and punches Red Shirt #5 with the muzzle of his pistol (High-Tech, p. 93, and Tactical Shooting, p. 26) with a DX roll. Wick succeeds and Red Shirt #5 fails his active defence roll; -4 (stunned) to Dodge. He takes thr+1 cr damage to the vitals, which shocks him and forces a HT roll to avoid knockdown (Martial Arts, p. 137). Red Shirt #5 fails his HT roll and staggers back (rather than falling down) to reel against a column. Red Shirt #5 is stunned and forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre.

12th Second: Wick takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre and tries to fire a two-handed sighted shot at Red Shirt #5. The pistol does not fire! This is why whacking people with your gun is usually not a smart idea (Tactical Shooting, p. 26). Game-mechanically, this could only occur if Wick had rolled an 18 on his attack roll, but this is a clear erratum to my text in Tactical Shooting. Obviously you need to actually strike something in order for such a malfunction to occur. In other words, whenever you hit someone with a gun and make contact, roll 3d. On an 18, the malfunction occurs. This is clearly what happened here. Red Shirt #5 is still stunned and forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre.

13th Second: Wick takes a Ready manoeuvre to clear the problem. Instead of a standard Immediate Action (High-Tech, p. 80, and Tactical Shooting, p. 17), he takes the safer but more time-consuming approach to perform a complete reload, ejecting the magazine and reaching for a new one. He makes his Fast-Draw (Ammo) roll, reducing the reloading time from three to two seconds (p. B195). Note the exaggerated wrist flip to eject the magazine. This is a trademark of the CAR shooting style and possibly useful with pistol patterns that often suffer from sticky magazines, such as the Colt Government or Glock pistols. However, with the P30L’s super-positive ejection, it is just a sign of ingrained rote training. Red Shirt #5 is still stunned and forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre.

14th Second: Wick takes a Ready manoeuvre to finish the reload, inserting the fresh magazine and racking the slide to clear a possibly jammed or misfired cartridge from the previous magazine and to chamber a round from the fresh magazine. Red Shirt #5 is still stunned and forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre.

15th Second: Wick takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre and fires one two-handed sighted shot at Red Shirt #5’s head; +0 (range) +1 (All-Out Attack) -7 (skull hit location) = -6 to Guns (Pistol). Wick succeeds and Red Shirt #5 fails his active defence roll; -4 (stunned) to Dodge. Red Shirt #5 is hit in the skull for four times (2d+2 pi+ – DR 2) damage after penetration (average 40 points); he is now at -1×HP or less, if not -5×HP. Due to the major wound to the skull, he must make a HT-10 roll to avoid possible unconsciousness and a HT roll to avoid instant death. He fails at least one of these and is down.

16th Second: Wick takes a Move manoeuvre and takes two steps in the opposite direction to face the appearing Red Shirt #6. How he has even seen him is at anyone’s guess. He might have the Danger Sense advantage (p. B47). Red Shirt #6 also takes a Move manoeuvre.

17th Second: Wick takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre and fires two two-handed sighted shots as a double-tap (Tactical Shooting, p. 15) at Red Shirt #6; -1 (range) +1 (All-Out Attack) = +0 to Guns (Pistol). Wick succeeds and Red Shirt #6 fails his Dodge roll. Red Shirt #6 takes two hits to the torso for twice 2d+2 pi+ (average 26 points) damage. These are two major wounds and he is at -1×HP or less. Red Shirt #6 fails one of his two HT rolls and is knocked down.

18th Second: Wick takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre and turns 180° to engage the suddenly appearing Red Shirt #7 with a Mozambique Drill (Tactical Shooting, pp. 15-16); again it is unclear how he could have seen or sensed the approaching opponent. This plays out as a Ranged Rapid Strike (Tactical Shooting, p. 18) with two distinct attacks; first two two-handed sighted shots (Tactical Shooting, p. 13) as a the double-tap to the sternum; +0 (range) +1 (All-Out Attack) -2 (Pop-Up Attack) -6 (Ranged Rapid Strike) +0 (torso hit location) +1 (compensator) = -6 to Guns (Pistol). The Cool Under Fire perk would reduce it to -4. Wicks needs to succeed by a margin of 2 to hit with both shots, which he does. The headshot is at +0 (range) +1 (All-Out Attack) -2 (Pop-Up Attack) -6 (Ranged Rapid Strike) -7 (skull hit location) +1 (compensator) = -13 to Guns (Pistol). The Cool Under Fire perk would reduce it to -11. Wick’s flawless execution of the drill suggests that he has the Quick-Shot (Pistol) (Tactical Shooting, p. 45) and Targeted Attack (Pistol/Skull) techniques to bring down the total penalties to +0 and -4, respectively, or +2 and -2 with Cool Under Fire. The execution without checking for effect (Tactical Shooting, p. 16) suggests that he also has the Trademark Move (Wizard of Moz) perk (Tactical Shooting, p. 41), which gives a further +1 to the attack rolls. Wick succeeds making both attacks and Red Shirt #7 fails his Dodge rolls. Red Shirt #7 takes six times 2d+2 pi+ damage after penetration (average 68 points), four times alone from the skull hit. He is at -5×HP and thus instantly dead. Red Shirt #8 takes a Move manoeuvre, appearing on the left side of Red Shirt #7 and stepping behind a column.

19th Second: Wick takes a Move manoeuvre and takes four steps to his right side to bring the column between himself and Red Shirt #8. Red Shirt #8 takes a Do Nothing manoeuvre and stays behind the column, peeking around it while clutching a Glock 17 pistol (High-Tech, pp. 100-101).

20th Second: Both Wick and Red Shirt #8 take Do Nothing manoeuvres, keeping the column between them as cover.

21st Second: Wick takes an Attack manoeuvre after having spied Red Shirt #8’s toes peeking out from behind the column with a Per roll. In order to keep as much of himself behind cover as possible, he takes one one-handed unsighted Behind-the-Back-Shot at the foot of Red Shirt #8; +0 (range) -2 (Pop-Up Attack) -7 (behind the back shot) -4 (foot hit location = -13 to Guns (Pistol). The Cool Under Fire perk would reduce it to -11. He probably has the Behind-the-Back-Shot technique to bring down the total penalty to -10 or -8. Wick succeeds and Red Shirt #8 fails his Dodge roll. Red Shirt #8 takes one hit in the foot for 2d+2 pi (average 9 points) damage (reduced to pi from pi+, p. B399). This is a major wound and he is at less than 1/3 HP. Red Shirt #8 makes his HT roll and is not stunned, but he is shocked. Although he has a crippling injury to the foot, he does not fall down (despite p. B421). Red Shirt #8 is forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre and takes a step forward out of cover.

22nd Second: Wick takes an Attack manoeuvre to fire one one-handed unsighted shot at Red Shirt #8; +0 (range) to Guns (Pistol). He succeeds and Red Shirt #8 fails his defence; halved Dodge. Red Shirt #8 takes one hit in the torso for 2d+2 pi+ (average 13 points) damage. This is a major wound and he is at 0 HP or less. Red Shirt #8 makes his HT roll and is not stunned, but he is shocked. Red Shirt #8 is forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre.

23rd Second: Wick takes an All-Out Attack (Determined) manoeuvre to fire one two-handed sighted shot at Red Shirt #8; +0 (range) +1 (All-Out Attack) to Guns (Pistol). He succeeds and Red Shirt #8 fails his defence; halved Dodge. Red Shirt #8 takes one hit in the torso for 2d+2 pi+ (average 13 points) damage. This is a major wound and he is at -1×HP or less. Red Shirt #8 makes his HT roll and is not stunned, but he is shocked. Red Shirt #8 is forced to take a Do Nothing manoeuvre.

24th Second: Wick takes a Telegraphic Attack (Martial Arts, p. 113) manoeuvre and kicks Red Shirt #8 through the door; -2 (kicking) +4 Telegraphic Attack) = +2 to Karate. Wick succeeds and Red Shirt #8 fails his defence; halved Dodge. Red Shirt #8 takes thr+2 damage (assuming Karate at DX+1 or higher) and is knocked down. Exit lounge.

In the film, the scene is 24 seconds long.

Results

So how is this Gun Fu? As I said, it is not. Practically every combat technique depicted is realistic, seen on its own. However, clearly there are many cinematic campaign switches in play, especially Cannon Fodder and Melee Etiquette (p. B417).

This scene only works because most of the Red Shirts are unarmed and come at Wick one at a time, despite a pile of dead guys already around him. Occasionally, they even stand around in front of Wick and wait for him to act.

Also, Wick has crazy Situational Awareness. Not only does he see every opponent in time, he sees them when they are approaching from behind! In a loud club. With other people running around screaming. With his own hearing impaired by loosing shots in a confined space (Tactical Shooting, pp. 34-35).

Advertisement