A Series Review: John Wick, a dog dad’s vengeance story

Warning: spoiler alert!

John Wick is a neo-noir action thriller franchise set in the shadowy underworld of assassins and criminals. The movie was supposed to be named Scorn but Keanu loves the name John Wick so much the directors agreed to change it and I would have to personally agree. 

The franchise focuses on John Wick (played by Keanu Reeves), a former hitman coming out of retirement after the death of his dog. A completely reasonable event to go absolute ballistic. Although he tries to return to a peaceful life, he finds himself drawn back into his former life by old debts.

John Wick (2014)

(Source: Mental Floss)

John Wick has remained withdrawn from the world of organized crime. Instead, he chooses to spend his days driving his prized car and caring for his dog Daisy (who is absolutely adorable might I add?). John had been living peacefully with his wife Helen, who passed away due to complications from cancer (my condolences, dear John). But this peaceful life soon turns upside down, when Russian gangster Iosef (later revealing to be Viggo Tarasov’s son) invades John’s house. During the invasion, Iosef attacks the hitman, kills Daisy, and steals his car, and leaves John unconscious (the audacity). All this because John had refused to sell his car to Iosef. Talk about petty.

Viggo learns of the wreck his son has caused and braces for the storm that was sure to come. He tries to negotiate for peace with John but to no avail. Left with no other choice, he sends assassins to protect Iosef but this also proves to be useless as John Wick successfully kills all of them. He promptly leaves the scene after adopting a pit-bull (handsome just like his owner) before returning home.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

(Source: Imgur)

John’s dream to continue living in retirement after recovering his car and getting a new dog turns out to be impossible when John refuses a marker (read: debt) given by an Italian syndicate leader, Santino D’Antonio. Can’t a man live his life peacefully? Apparently not. When his life was forfeit and home destroyed, John was forced to complete the old debt. His mission was to kill Santino’s sister Gianna D’Antonio in a bid to assume her throne at the High Table; the highest known power in the international criminal underworld.

Upon fulfilling his debt, John realizes that he is now Santino’s next target. After much action, John ends up killing Santino inside the Continental, a hotel catering exclusively to the underworld criminals. The situation is anything but good; he broke the rules that all guests religiously uphold, which was to not spill blood within the hotel. 

The next day, the owner of Continental, Winston, meets with John to inform him of the news. Now, John turns into an excommunicado, and his previous bounty by Santino doubles and becomes international.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)

Less than an hour after the events of the second film, John Wick is now a marked man on the run in Manhattan. Before leaving, John retrieves two concealed items – a marker medallion and a crucifix. He uses them first to ask the Director for help in getting a safe passage to Casablanca and the other to ask Sofia Al’Azwar, to honor her marker. As a form of debt payment, he asks Sofia to direct him to the Elder. As the only person above the High Table, he ultimately seeks to request atonement for his misdeed.

When he meets the Elder, John says that he is desperate to live to ‘earn’ the memory of the love he once had with his wife. He might be an assassin but I think we can all agree he knows how to love. The Elder agrees to forgive John on the condition that he assassinate Winston and offer his servitude to the High Table until death. John agrees. 

When John finally meets Winston, the latter encourages John to not die as an enslaved killer, but as a man who loves and was loved by his wife. How romantic! Convinced, John and Winston team up as the Continental is revoked of its neutral ground status. They then clash with heavily armed High Table enforcers and other assassins who are still gunning for John’s bounty. After a much intense battle, an Adjudicator sent in by the High Table agrees to parley with Winston. In a plot twist, Winston ends up shooting John several times. John falls off the roof of the Continental and is presumed dead. That is, until the Adjudicator notices that he is missing and immediately notifies him as a threat.

Meanwhile a seriously injured John and his dog are delivered to the Bowery King who asks John if he shares the same angry sentiment about the High Table as the King. The film ends with John saying, “Yeah”.

Some Cool Tropes Found Across the Franchise

Keanu Reeves stars in John Wick (2014).
(Source: Mental Floss)

Boom, Headshot!: ‘Headshot’ could be an alternative title for the series. John always makes sure the targets are down, which means almost all of them get at least one bullet to the head.

Car Fu: Action sequences revolving around the use of cars as weapons show up several times. In particular, the franchise loves to have Wick hit by a car. As a running gag the car always hits him on his right: it happens once in the first film, twice in Chapter 2, and once in Chapter 3. 

Extremely short timespan: Each film takes place over the course of a week at most, and generally stand apart by days. This is to say that all physical and emotional battering that John endured since his wife died at the start of the first film has taken place over the course of a month at most.

Retro universe: The series is clearly set in the present day and is not different from our own. However, the assassin’s underworld is built on a feudal system of fealty. They have a strong preference for antiquated technology in everything except weaponry: gold coins as currency, rotary phones and typewriters are some frequent items within the films.

To make things even better, Chapter 4 was announced (soon after the release of Chapter 3) to be in the making and might be released in 2021. I would be lying if I said I didn’t scream after finding out. I highly recommend those who haven’t watched this to give it a try. The cinematic universe is beautiful and enriches the plot plentily. Regardless, this franchise does have a recurring moral lessons: Never mess with dogs.

Written by Mariyam Sarah.