Len Wiseman is not a very good director. He keeps plugging away at it, but his films are forgettable at best, and no one would peg him as some action wunderkind who crafts exhilarating set pieces. But Lionsgate knows it has a franchise on its hands with John Wick, and that a franchise that isn’t producing spinoffs isn’t producing at maximum capacity. So while the John Wick series will continue (John Wick 4 is due out in May 2021), Lionsgate needs more from its beloved series, so enter Wiseman to direct a female-centric spinoff titled Ballerina.
Per Deadline, “Ballerina focuses on a young female assassin who seeks revenge against the people who killed her family. The picture is on a fast track, with a script by Shay Hatten, whose credits include the Zack Snyder-directed Army of the Dead for Netflix, and John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.”
What’s kind of a slap in the face of all of this is that Ballerina is an alright idea. One of the greatest strengths of the John Wick franchise is its world building, so why not create new movies that go places where the John Wick character doesn’t need to go? But hiring Wiseman for the gig is just a dumb decision in multiple ways. For starters, it shows that female-centric only matters for the character on screen, not who gets to direct even though you can’t get more vanilla and blander than Len Wiseman. You could argue that maybe he’ll get a brilliant second-unit director to do the action scenes, but for some reason he didn’t do that with any of his other action movies.
Which leads to the second problem: the John Wick brand is that the action scenes are outstanding. Chad Stahleski and David Leitch are masters of set pieces, and I’m sure there are other directors out there who have that kind of imagination and drive to try and out-do what we’ve seen so far in the John Wick movies. Wiseman is not one of those directors. He will direct a film that’s on time and on budget and it will exist as product, but a disappointing one. If you’re going to make a movie about a skilled female assassin taking revenge but you don’t have the action chops to back it up, you’re just doing a Luc Besson knockoff. John Wick deserves better.