Back in 1989, when Keanu Reeves hit the radar in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, we may not have proclaimed: “One day, that floppy-haired heart-throb will play a killing machine in a squillion-dollar neo-noir film franchise.” But a lot has changed in thirty years. If his roles in Speed and The Matrix kick-started Reeves’ reinvention as an action hero, then his career-best debut as John Wick in 2014 tied a bow on it.
Five years on, the numbers are jaw-dropping – and we’re not just talking about the global box office from the first two John Wick movies. Perhaps the more relevant statistic is that Wick has dispensed a total of 161 bad guys to date in this vendetta-fuelled saga. Before John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum adds to that body count on 15 May, let’s look back at the story so far…
It all started with a puppy (seriously). Rewind to 2014, and when retired hitman John Wick is targeted by unwitting Russian mobsters – who steal his Ford Mustang and kill the pet beagle that threw him a lifeline after his wife’s death – they open a big can of whoop-ass.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, this opening salvo follows the bone-snapping clash between Wick and the crime clan of chilling kingpin Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), with the carnage spilling between chop-shops, nightclubs and the gangster-populated Continental Hotel.
Chapter 2 plunges us back into the New York underworld, as notorious Camorra don Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) orders Wick to carry out a brutal assassination as payback for an old favour.
Wick duly carries out the kill – only for Santino to frame him for murder and slap down a $7 million reward for his killing.
When Wick breaks the underworld’s golden rule – never spill blood inside The Continental Hotel – the bounty is doubled.
So here’s a pickle: after his faux pas in The Continental Hotel, Wick has been frozen out by the crime world’s High Table, has a $14 million price on his head, and a swarm of international assassins on his tail, including sort-of comrade Sofia (Halle Berry) and the terrifying Zero (Mark Dacascos).
Stahelski has described this third instalment as “our f**k you to everyone else” in the action genre, and with set pieces involving attack dogs, knife fights and horseback battles, he’s put his movie where his mouth is.
John Wick is a hunted man. After breaking the underworld’s code of honour, this third instalment of the smash-hit neo-noir action saga finds the troubled hitman out in the cold, pursued by an army of merciless killers seeking the $14 million bounty on his head.
But modern cinema’s deadliest assassin isn’t going down without a fight.