John Wick

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John Wick
John Wick (franchise logo).png
Created byDerek Kolstad
Original workJohn Wick (2014)
Owned bySummit Entertainment (Lionsgate)
Print publications
ComicsJohn Wick (2017)
Films and television
Film(s)
Television seriesThe Continental (TBA)
Games
Video game(s)
Audio
Soundtrack(s)John Wick
John Wick: Chapter 2
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

John Wick is an American action thriller media franchise created by Derek Kolstad and owned by Summit Entertainment. Keanu Reeves plays John Wick, a retired hitman seeking vengeance for the killing of his dog.

The franchise began with the release of John Wick in 2014. This was followed by two sequels, John Wick: Chapter 2 on February 10, 2017, and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum on May 17, 2019. All three films were considered critical and commercial successes, with the series accumulating a collective gross of more than $581 million worldwide. A fourth installment, John Wick: Chapter 4, is currently in production and is set to be released May 21, 2021.

Background[edit]

Character[edit]

John Wick (born Jardani Jovonovich in Belarus) is played by Keanu Reeves.[1][2][3] Wick was an orphan taken in by the Tarasov Russian Mafia and raised as an assassin. His ruthlessness earned him the nickname Baba Yaga or The Bogeyman. At the beginning of the first film, Wick has been inactive for five years, having retired from the Tarasov Russian Mafia.

Films[edit]

Film U.S. release date Director(s) Screenwriter(s) Producer(s) Status
John Wick October 24, 2014 (2014-10-24) Chad Stahelski[a] Derek Kolstad Basil Iwanyk, David Leitch, Eva Longoria and Michael Witherill Released
John Wick: Chapter 2 February 10, 2017 (2017-02-10) Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum May 17, 2019 (2019-05-17) Story by: Derek Kolstad
Written by: Derek Kolstad, Shay Hatten, Chris Collins and Marc Abrams
John Wick: Chapter 4 May 21, 2021 (2021-05-21) TBA TBA TBA In development
Ballerina TBA Len Wiseman Shay Hatten Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee and Chad Stahelski

John Wick (2014)[edit]

This film focuses on John Wick (Keanu Reeves) and his search for the men who broke into his home, stole his beloved vintage car and killed his puppy, Daisy, a final gift to him from his recently deceased wife, Helen (Bridget Moynahan).[5]

The film's development began in 2012 and, in May 2013, Reeves was cast as the titular character. Principal photography began September 25, 2013 and wrapped on December 20, 2013.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)[edit]

Forced to honor a debt from his past life, John Wick is sent to assassinate a target he has no wish to kill, then faces betrayal at the hands of his sponsor.

The film was announced in February 2015, with principal photography beginning October 26, 2015.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)[edit]

John Wick is on the run, being hunted with a $14 million (increased to $15 million later) open contract on his life for breaking a foundational rule: taking a life on Continental Hotel grounds. The victim, Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) was a member of the High Table - the organisation then ordered the open contract. John should have already been executed but the Continental's manager, Winston (Ian McShane), has given him a one-hour grace period before he is "ex-communicado" –having his membership revoked, being banned from all services and cut off from other members. John uses favors and contacts accrued in his former life to stay alive as he fights his way out of New York City.

In October 2016, Stahelski announced the development of the third film. The film began production in early 2018.

Future[edit]

John Wick: Chapter 4 (2021)[edit]

In May 2019, prior to the release of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Chad Stahelski confirmed on a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" thread that there has been a discussion for another film and that he would be involved with the project should the sequel be successful.[6] Keanu Reeves stated that he would continue making sequels, as long as the films are successful.[7] Lionsgate officially announced the film during John Wick 3's opening week, with a scheduled release date of May 21, 2021.[8]

Ballerina (TBA)[edit]

In July 2017, Lionsgate announced the development of a spin-off film titled Ballerina, with the intent to expand the franchise within the same fictional world. The story — written by Shay Hatten, Writer's Assistant for Team Downey — involves a young woman who is raised to be an assassin, pursuing revenge on the hitmen who killed her family. Basil Iwanyk will serve as producer under his Thunder Road Films banner, along with Erica Lee.[9] In October 2019, Len Wiseman signed onto the project as director, with Keanu Reeves and Chad Stahelski serving as a producer and executive producer, respectively. The film will follow the same ballerina previously portrayed by Unity Phelan in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.[10][11]

Television[edit]

The Continental (TBA)[edit]

In June 2017, it was announced that Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad were developing a television series for Lionsgate based on the characters and setting of the John Wick films, titled The Continental.[12] The series reportedly focuses on the hotel safe-haven for hit men and assassins, which features in the films. Later that year it was reported that Reeves would reprise his role as John Wick for the TV show.[13][14] That same month, it was announced that the series would be a prequel to the film series.[15]

In January 2018, the series was ordered and will premiere on Starz network. Chris Collins will serve as executive writer and showrunner for the series, while David Leitch, Keanu Reeves and Chad Stahelski will produce the series. Stahelski will also direct the pilot episode.[16] COO of Starz, Jeffrey Hirsch, later confirmed that the television series will be a prequel that takes place years before the films.[17]

Cast and crew[edit]

Cast[edit]

The following is a list of cast members who portrayed characters appearing in the John Wick film series.

List indicator(s)

This section shows characters who will appear or have appeared in more than two films in the series.

  • An empty, dark grey cell indicates the character was not in the film, or that the character's official presence has not yet been confirmed.
  •  C indicates a cameo role.
  •  P indicates an appearance in onscreen photographs.
  •  S indicates an appearance through use of special effects.
Character Films Spin-off film Television series
John Wick John Wick: Chapter 2 John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum John Wick: Chapter 4 Ballerina The Continental
2014 2017 2019 2021 TBA
Johnathan "John" Wick
Jardani Jovonovich
Keanu Reeves Keanu Reeves
Winston Ian McShane
Charon Lance Reddick
Helen Wick Bridget Moynahan Bridget MoynahanP
Aurelio John Leguizamo
Jimmy Thomas Sadoski
Charlie David Patrick Kelly
The Doctor Randall Duk Kim Randall Duk Kim
Marcus Willem Dafoe
Viggo Tarasov Michael Nyqvist
Iosef Tarasov Alfie Allen
Ms. Perkins Adrianne Palicki
The Bowery King Laurence Fishburne
Earl Tobias Segal
Santino D'Antonio Riccardo Scamarcio Riccardo ScamarcioCS
Ares Ruby Rose
Cassian Common
Abram Tarasov Peter Stormare
Julius Franco Nero
Gianna D'Antonio Claudia Gerini
Ballerina Unity Phelan Unity Phelan
Sofia Halle Berry
Zero Mark Dacascos
The Adjudicator Asia Kate Dillon
The Director Anjelica Huston
The Elder Saïd Taghmaoui
Berrada Jerome Flynn
Tick Tock Man Jason Mantzoukas
The Administrator Robin Lord Taylor

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

The premise for John Wick was conceived by screenwriter Derek Kolstad who began work on a treatment about a retired contract killer coming out to seek vengeance, entitled Scorn.[18] After one month of work, he had completed the first draft of the screenplay. After addressing several issues he pitched the script to various clients, garnering at least three offers.[19] When he first began to think about writing the script, Kolstad was influenced by film-noir classics, and the themes of revenge and the antihero. Kolstad explained that he tried to, "explore what would happen if the worst man in existence found salvation [... and] when the source of his salvation is ripped from him, what happens? Do the gates of Hades open?"[20]

On December 3, 2012, it was announced that Thunder Road Pictures had bought the script with discretionary funds, with Kolstad agreeing due to Thunder Road's plan to make the film straight away.[21] When Basil Iwanyk, head of Thunder Road Pictures, had first read Kolstad's original screenplay, he was immediately drawn to the main character of Wick, stating, "The tone of the script was subversive and really fun." He also admired the emotional weight and action theme of the piece. After Thunder Road had optioned the script, Kolstad spent additional months rewriting the script with them. In the original script, the character of John Wick was written with "a man in his mid-sixties" to play the role, given the title character's fabled reputation as a revered and respected assassin. However, Iwanyk believed that this was irrelevant and bent the original vision ever so slightly, stating, "Instead, we decided to look for someone who is not literally older, but who has a seasoned history in the film world."[22]

Keanu Reeves in 2014

On May 7, 2013, it was announced that Keanu Reeves had begun negotiations to star in the piece in Aprill. He was later confirmed as the film's male lead. After Iwanyk and Peter Lawson of Thunder Road showed him the script, he thought it to be full of potential and stated, "I love the role but you want the whole story, the whole ensemble to come to life."[23] Reeves and Kolstad worked closely together on further developing the screenplay and the story,[19][24] with the screenwriter stating, "We spent as much time developing the other characters as we did his. [Keanu] recognizes that the strength of the storyline lies in even the smallest details."[25] The title of the film was later changed from Scorn to John Wick, as according to Kolstad, "Keanu liked the name so much, that Reeves kept telling everyone that he was making a film called 'John Wick'", and the producers agreed, changing the title.

During story discussions for John Wick, Reeves contacted Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, who he originally met on the set of The Matrix,[26] to see if they were interested in choreographing or directing the action of the piece.[27] Reeves admired Stahelski and Leitch's work performing, choreographing and coordinating, stating that, "When I got the script...I immediately thought of Chad and Dave for the action design, but I was secretly hoping they'd want to direct it."[27] He then added, "I knew that they would love the genre and I knew that they would love John Wick. And I thought the worlds that get created – the real world and then this underworld – would be attractive to them, and it was."[27] After reading Kolstad's script, Stahelski and Leitch told Reeves they wanted to tell the story of John Wick, as they both had a desire to get involved with a project as directors. Impressed with Reeves' enthusiasm and the quality of the script, Stahelski and Leitch, told him that they wished to direct the film and later presented him with their version of the story which was based on "[...] the idea of [Wick] as an urban legend, a thriller assassin movie with a realistic vibe and an otherworldly setting." Impressed with their concept, Reeves supported the pair, and Stahelski and Leitch pitched the idea to the studio, who hired them to direct, contrary to their initial request of directing the film's second unit. On May 7, 2013, it was announced that Stahelski and Leitch were to direct the film together as a team,[28][29] though it was later ruled by the Directors Guild of America that only Stahelski would be given the director credit. Leitch was credited as a producer.[30]

Principal photography for the first film was confirmed to have begun in New York City with an original shooting schedule meant to have occurred from September 25 to December 5, 2013 with the filming process scheduled to continue in and around New York City and greater New York area.[31][32][33][34]

In February 2015, directors Stahelski and Leitch stated that a John Wick sequel had begun development, which was later titled John Wick: Chapter 2.[35][36] The same month Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lionsgate, stated during a conference call, "We see John Wick as a multiple-title action franchise."[37] Additionally, it was reported that Kolstad would return to write the screenplay.[37] In May 2015, it was confirmed that a sequel was greenlit, and Lionsgate would be selling the film at the Cannes Film Festival. Principal photography on the film began on October 26, 2015, in New York City.[38] It would later move to Rome and eventually resumed in Montreal, Canada on October 27, 2016.

In October 2016, Stahelski stated a third film was in development.[39] In June 2017, it was reported that Kolstad would return to write the screenplay for the third film.[40] In September 2017, Lionsgate announced a release date of May 17, 2019.[41] In January 2018, it was reported that Chad Stahelski was returning to direct the film and Common, Laurence Fishburne, and Ruby Rose were set to reprise their roles from the second film. Additionally, it was announced that Hiroyuki Sanada had been cast as the film's antagonist. The film began production in early 2018.[42] On May 21, 2018, it was reported that Halle Berry, Asia Kate Dillon, Anjelica Huston, Mark Dacascos and Jason Mantzoukas had joined the cast.

Inspiration for the film series[edit]

Director Chad Stahelski cited The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Point Blank (1967), Le Cercle Rouge (1970), and The Killer (1989) as influences for John Wick.[43]

About The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Stahelski said, "Look at Clint Eastwood in [the film] – there is so much back-story unsaid there. We're big fans of leaving it to your imagination. We just give you some gold coins, and then it's, 'Where do the gold coins come from?' We'll get to that eventually. Have your imagination do some work there." He also said Point Blank influenced John Wick: "One of the biggest inspirations for the film was Point Blank. We watched it on a loop in our office, and there are a couple of homages to that [in John Wick]."[44] Park Chan-wook's The Vengeance Trilogy (2002–2005) and Lee Jeong-beom's The Man from Nowhere (2010) influenced the film due to "[their] minimalist composition and graphic nature."[45]

Alistair MacLean and Stephen King were huge influences in the creation of the story of John Wick in terms of characterization and world-building, with screenwriter Derek Kolstad stating, "MacLean could build a world, and King could surprise you by what the main character truly was capable of."[46] Outside of films, Stahelski and Leitch drew inspiration from the visual stylings of the '60s and '70s as well as cinematic influences, including Sergio Leone, Akira Kurosawa, Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, William Friedkin and Sam Peckinpah. Stahelski himself said, "All the way back to Kurosawa up to Sergio Leone. We like the spaghetti western sensibility there, some of the composition." About inspiration and emulation from the noir film genre, Stahelski added that "Noir maybe was sort of less impact for us than the other sort of westerns and Kurosawa and things like that. I think we wanted to make this hard-boiled character."[43][44][47]

Reception[edit]

Box office performance[edit]

Film U.S. release date Box office gross All-time ranking Budget Ref(s)
U.S. and Canada Other territories Worldwide U.S. and Canada Worldwide
John Wick October 24, 2014 $43,037,835 $45,723,826 $88,761,661 1,975 N/A $20–30 million [48][49]
John Wick: Chapter 2 February 10, 2017 $92,029,184 $79,510,703 $171,539,887 807 N/A $40 million [50][51][49]
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum May 17, 2019 $171,015,687 $150,709,492 $321,725,179 293 429 $55–75 million [52][49][53][54]
Total $306,082,706 $275,944,021 $582,026,727 $115–145 million

Critical and public response[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic CinemaScore
John Wick 87% (211 reviews)[55] 68 (40 reviews)[56] B[57]
John Wick: Chapter 2 89% (261 reviews)[58] 75 (43 reviews)[59] A−[57]
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum 90% (319 reviews)[60] 73 (50 reviews)[61] A−[57]

Other media[edit]

Video games[edit]

Wick is an officially-licensed playable character in the heist-based video game Payday 2.[62] Wick-themed elements were added to Fortnite Battle Royale upon the launch of its ninth season, occurring a day before the third film's release.[63] A Wick-inspired character had previously been available in the game's third season.

John Wick Chronicles, a virtual reality game set in the Continental Hotel, was released on February 9, 2017. Players assassinate multiple targets inside the hotel as John Wick using a multitude of weapons.[64]

John Wick Hex, a turn-based tactical role-playing game developed by Mike Bithell and published by Lionsgate Games, was announced in May 2019 and released on October 8, 2019. The game has the player control Wick in various missions to use his array of skills to take down opponents and features the voices of Ian McShane and Lance Reddick reprising their film roles, among others.[65]

Comic books[edit]

A comic book mini-series was released November 29, 2017 by Dynamite and was written by Greg Pak and illustrated by Giovanni Valletta.[66]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Stahelski co-directed the first John Wick film with David Leitch, but the Directors Guild of America awarded sole directorial credit to Stahelski; Leitch is instead listed as a producer.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ John Wick: Chapter 3: Parabellum
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  66. ^ Greg Pak (w), Giovanni Valletta (a). John Wick v.1, #1 (November 29, 2017), Mount Laurel, New Jersey: Dynamite Comics, retrieved on May 9, 2019