The trailer for John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum exploded onto the internet recently, inviting moviegoers back into the world of organized crime and (extremely) professional assassins first introduced in 2014’s John Wick. Building off the finale of 2017’s Chapter 2, which saw Keanu Reeve’s titular bereaved hitman on the run from seemingly every hitman on the planet, Parabellum promises bigger and better thrills than its predecessors.
Here’s everything you need to know before catching John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum.
MEET JOHN WICK
In 2014, moviegoers were introduced to John Wick, a retired hitman whose peaceful existence is shattered by the loss of his wife (Bridget Moynahan, TV’s Blue Bloods) to an unspecified illness. He finds solace in taking care of a puppy, Daisy, but when the son (Game of Thrones’ Alfie Allen) of a Russian mafia boss kills the dog and steals John’s car as a matter of pride, the former hitman is pushed to seek swift, brutal revenge.
A breath of fresh air in an action movie landscape where stunts and derring-do had been supplanted by CGI and editing, John Wick presented audiences with a no-frills shot of straight-up action delirium. Combining close quarters combat and Hong Kong cinema-inspired “gun-fu”, the film’s action sequences were a visceral thrill to behold. At the center of it all was Reeves, perfectly cast as the smartly-dressed eponymous hitman of few words, the surprising grace and physicality of his actions speaking for themselves. Pushing 50 and looking none the worse for wear, Reeves was once again at the forefront of an action franchise that audiences couldn’t get enough of.
THE STORY CONTINUES
Chapter 2 saw Wick taking up arms once more, this time in order to repay an old debt. But when the job in question forces John to break the ironclad rules of his former profession, he must go on the run from every friend, enemy, and ally he ever had.
John Wick Chapter 2 suffers from a distinct feeling of deja vu, with the solemn intonations of older, wiser characters on John’s legendary lethal hits having been robbed of their impact by the mere fact that we’ve already seen the guy in action once before. Adding to the problem is the lack of any sort of compelling emotional hook this time around; whereas the first film featured John coming to terms with his grief (in the most violent ways), the sequel’s call to action just felt like more of the same.
Thankfully, what Chapter 2 lacked in freshness, it is somewhat made up for with a heaping dose of world-building that expands the lore of the criminal organization previously hinted at via the first film’s Continental Hotel. Further helping matters were the introductions of intriguing new characters, including a street-level crime boss (Lawrence Fishburne, The Matrix) who utilizes the city’s homeless as his eyes and ears, and a mute assassin (Orange is the New Black’s Ruby Rose), whose time is cut all too short.
In Latin, “Parabellum” means, “prepare for war”, hinting at the enormity of John’s decision to shed blood on the Continental’s neutral ground in the name of revenge. How this ties in to the overall plot remains to be seen, but fans are speculating it may have something to do with the Latin tattoo on John’s back, which translates to, “fortune favors the bold”.
At any rate, Parabellum promises to pick up from the end of Chapter 2, with John having violated the rules of The Continental and being stripped of his resources. With a whopping $14 million bounty on his head, John will have to rely on his fists, wits, and (apparently) a galloping horse if he wants to get out of New York in one piece.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY
Familiar faces abound in the new trailer, including returning cast members Fishburne as the Bowery King and Ian McShane (Deadwood) as the unflappable proprietor of The Continental Hotel. New to the franchise are Halle Berry (X-Men, Swordfish), whom we haven’t seen in a major role in ages, playing an assassin who seems to be on John’s side (for however long that lasts), while Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family, The Royal Tenenbaums) appears as another potential ally.
Truth be told, we’re more excited about the faces we didn’t quite catch in the trailer, particularly those of veteran martial artist Mark Dacascos (Crying Freeman, Brotherhood of the Wolf), who is reportedly playing a major villain alongside Japanese superstar Hiroyuki Sanada (The Ring, The Last Samurai, Rush Hour 3). Meanwhile, NBA big man Boban Marjanovic, and Indonesian badasses Yayan Ruhian Cecep and Arif Rahman (both of The Raid), round out the cast as assassins out for John Wick’s blood. Fun as it is to imagine scenarios where Wick faces off against an opponent of Marjanovic’s size, we’re hoping Parabellum makes better use of Cecep and Rahman’s time (and martial arts talents) than the thirty seconds they got in The Force Awakens.
THE ORIGINS OF JOHN WICK
John Wick the character first saw life in “Scorn”, a screenplay by Derek Kolstad that drew on tropes from classic film noir to answer the question of, “what if if the most evil man found redemption, only to have it taken away?”. To flesh out the character, whom he named after his real-life grandfather, Kolstad added lore and world-building aspects inspired by the works of authors such as Allistair MacLean (The Guns of Navarone) and Stephen King (It, The Shining).
It was only when the script was purchased and approved for production that the decision was made to have John be played by a star in his prime, rather than casting an older actor in the role. This would have the double effect of making John’s reveal as a legendary retired assassin more of a surprise, while also making the film more marketable.
BEYOND THE MATRIX
While the first two John Wick films featured actors from The Matrix trilogy in roles as John’s allies (Randall “The Keymaker” Duk Kim as the doctor who patches John up in the first, and Laurence “Morpheus” Fishburne in Chapter 2), most people tend to miss out on directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, who first worked with Reeves as stunt doubles on the 1999 sci-fi classic.
In the years since The Matrix, Stahelski and Leitch had made their names directing action on films such as Captain America: Civil War and The Hunger Games, and were at the top of Reeves’ list to handle action duties for John Wick. After seeing the script, the duo made a push to come on to the project as full-on co-directors, eventually winning the job based on the strength of their treatment. After co-directing the first film, Stahelski served as sole director for Chapters 2 and 3, while Leitch would go on to make the equally-action-packed Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2.
MAN OF ACTION
In addition to the rigorous firearms instruction he would undergo for the first film, directors Stahelski and Leitch specifically asked Reeves to avoid training in any martial arts he had previously learned, in order to give a different feel to John Wick’s action sequences. The result was some of the most brutal, efficient fights mainstream audiences had ever seen on the big screen.
As a testament to the hard work Reeves put into these things, he reportedly shot the grueling nightclub fight sequence from the first film while suffering from the flu, going on to perform 90% of his own stunts. Check out the clip above of Keanu training with various guns that went viral ahead of Chapter 2’s release – the guy’s focus may be just plain scary, but that’s what makes him so darn good at what he does.
THE CONTINENTAL: THE TV SERIES
For fans who can’t get enough of the John Wick universe, a TV series has been announced! Set to debut on the Starz network sometime in 2019, The Continental will take place concurrently with the timeline of the John Wick series of films, promising a deeper look into the world of organized crime and assassinations that form the backbone of the franchise.
Taking its name from the hotel used by assassins as a home away from home, little is known about the show, other than Reeves may make a cameo. Here’s hoping that the New York branch’s concierge Charon (Lance Reddick, The Wire) and his boss Winston (McShane) find time to stop by.
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