Slow your roll, minor spoilers for John Wick ahead!
We should be so lucky to be living in a world where a sequel to John Wick, 2014’s overlooked masterpiece, is a possibility, let alone a reality. Despite fanatical word-of-mouth, the type of reviews most studios could only dream of, and the world’s cutest puppy co-star, the Keanu Reeves vehicle never really picked up enough steam to elevate it to the record-breaking blockbuster status it was meant to achieve. Fans of the action genre praised the film’s deviously crafted fight sequences and cheered for Reeves’s triumphant return to form, yet the film was no match for the October competition, coming in second in its opening weekend to that ouija board movie that you’ve already forgotten about. Fortunately, the folks at Lionsgate don’t seem to mind the modest numbers, considering they’ve just ordered up a second round from directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, with a confirmed script from screenwriter Derek Kolstad, and Reeves once again back in the starring role. With the greenlit sequel announced to be in the works, let’s take a look back at the mythology of John Wick.
The film is an origin story of sorts for a non-Marvel “avenger”, if you will. Reeves stars as the titular character, a retired assassin whose recently deceased wife had arranged for a small beagle to be gifted to her husband to help him cope without her, only to have the pup be gruesomely killed by a mobster’s careless son. Then so much shit goes down. If this kid only knew who he just messed with…
The face that launched a thousand bullets
That’s the whole premise, but famed stunt coordinators/first-time directors Leitch and Stahelski artfully execute its simplicity with more style, intelligence, and humor, than any action film of this millennium. It’s a violent film, most definitely, but the stunt choreography in John Wick is so focused and awe-inspiring, its plays out as effortlessly as a ballet. For what it’s worth, these deaths are presented beautifully.
Most of the appeal of the film can be traced back to the implied inner-workings of the criminal underworld Wick finds himself mixed back up in. There isn’t a flashback, there isn’t any detailed anecdote per se that outlines Wick’s murderous past for us, just a nickname – “the boogeyman” – that tells us all we need to know about what kind of person he used to be. He’s so feared amongst his peers that he’s embodied a folk tale of his own. This is organized crime in its most civilized form, where rivals treat each other with courtesy and mutual respect, even amiably. They operate on their own terms, even establishing their own set of exclusive currency. When in need of body disposal, no problem – call upon “the speciality cleaners” in exchange for some gold coins.
The narrative doesn’t place a firm foot in any particular location, but the network centralizes most of its action at the Continental Hotel, whose owner provides refuge for assassins, offers discreet services (on-call doctors who’ll casually fix up a gun wound for you real quick, nbd), hosts its own speakeasy, all under the strict policy of no dirty business being conducted on the hotel grounds. It’s a world we’re given a glimpse of in John Wick and hopefully be seeing much more of in its sequel.
There’s another layer to John Wick‘s comeback story that makes it such a winner and it’s the comeback of its own star, Keanu Reeves. He’s come a long way since his time-traveling days with Alex Winter and becoming a bonafide action star with turns in Point Break and The Matrix trilogy. In recent years, he’s kept a relatively low radar (not to mention becoming a meme in the process) since his string of box-office successes from the nineties. With his performance in John Wick, Reeves is aggressively back in his element and then some, making you wonder how you dared take him for granted for so long. Much like Wick, not a lot of people can do what Reeves is capable of doing. This character was tailor made for him.
The question now is…what’s in store for John Wick in the sequel? And more importantly…does another dog have to die?! Whether or not Wick’s back in the crime syndicate for good, what we can be most certain of is that there’s definitely a world here to explore. John Wick’s name be the title, but with the bevy of characters and locales merely suggested at in the original film, there’s intrigue to be found in what else they have to offer. I personally wouldn’t even mind a Four Rooms-inspired standalone, anthology film about the Continental with Lance Reddick as its Tim Roth-equivalent. Wait, can you imagine?!
Are you excited to see Keanu Reeves shoot some more baddies? Let us know in the comments!