Keanu Reeves has an acting résumé chock full of epic stunts, spine-tingling action sequences, and memorable one liners spanning a career that has brought us genre headliners like Point Break (1991), Speed (1994), and The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003). Therefore, as he continues to crank out some of his best work to date, fans are understandably excited about the completion of his latest adrenaline-fueled action trilogy.
In addition to the stellar performances from Keanu Reeves, not to mention his work ethic and attention to detail while preparing for these roles, the franchise has director Chad Stahelski to thank for the success. Stahelski’s martial arts background and longtime movie stunt work, which includes some of the biggest action titles of the last twenty years, translates on-screen to a visceral, accurate portrayal of weapon sequences and hand-to-hand combat, resulting in some iconic action moments.
On the brink of the third installment in the action-packed John Wick franchise, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, we countdown the 5 best moments in Keanu Reeve’s first two outings as one of cinema’s greatest assassins.
As John Wick gets sucked back into his former life in the 2014 debut, he returns to the Continental Hotel, a haven for assassins like himself, seeking help from the hotel’s owner, Winston (Ian McShane). Wick, seething with pent-up anger and revenge on his mind, is searching for Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen). Winston has to remind Wick of the strict Continental rules: “No business can be conducted on these premises lest incurring heavy penalties.” However, rules are meant to be broken, just ask Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), the assassin who crosses the line and attempts to kill Wick in his hotel room. For this action, Winston orders her execution.
Fast forward now to the end of John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017). Having just barely escaped the museum with his life, Italian crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) seeks refuge at the Continental. Gun by his side, Wick limps into the hotel to find D’Antonio enjoying a meal in the lounge. With Winston looking on, D’Antonio taunts his killer, thinking Wick can do him no harm on Continental grounds. Winston attempts to calm the rage growing inside Wick, who quietly listens to the arrogant crime lord until…BANG! Wick gets his man.
Winston has no choice but to declare Wick “excommunicado,” revoking his access to the Continental and all its services and providers. Meanwhile, the shadowy international assassin’s guild known as the High Table places a global bounty on Wick’s head. One of John Wick’s final lines sets the stage for Chapter 3, promising more exhilarating action: “…tell them all, whoever comes, whoever it is…I’ll kill them. I’ll kill them all.”
4. Neo Meets Morpheus
One of the coolest moments in the sequel was the reunion of Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne, co-stars of The Matrix trilogy, who hadn’t shared the screen together since The Matrix Revolutions (2003). In John Wick: Chapter 2, Fishburne plays an underground crime boss known as the Bowery King, who operates a network of disguised killers on every street corner in New York City, both above and below ground. Wick, who nearly killed the Bowery King years ago, risks his life to ask for help locating his target. For the Bowery King, the $7 million bounty on Wick’s head is hard to pass up.
After delivering some memorable one liners, the Bowery King takes the assassin underground, where Wick delivers an ultimatum: “Do you want a war, or do you want to just give me a gun?” The Bowery King responds with one of the sequel’s most memorable quotes: “Somebody please get this man a gun.”
3. Digging Up the Past
Upon our introduction to the titular character in John Wick (2014), we are presented with the portrait of a lonely, mild-mannered man cut off from the rest of the world. Thug Iosef Tarasov has a similar portrait in mind when he tags Wick as an easy target to make an example of after Wick rejects Iosef’s offer to purchase his 1969 Ford Mustang and embarrasses the thug in front of his crew. Iosef and his friends retaliate by breaking into Wick’s home, stealing his car, and killing his dog, giving Wick a good beating in the process.
Crime boss Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) has to set his son straight, telling him, “It’s not what you did, son…It’s who you did it to.” Wick’s chilling backstory is revealed as Viggo explains Wick was a former associate of theirs, an assassin who one day wanted out of the business. In exchange for his freedom, Viggo gave him an impossible task—one that no one could have completed. Wick completed the job, and the bodies he left behind set the foundation for Tarasov’s rise to power. John Wick is best epitomized by the following quote, in Viggo’s words: “John is a man of focus, commitment, sheer will...”
This scene is intercut with Wick violently digging up his past, literally, in the basement of his home—just a glimpse into the kind of psyche that hides behind the façade of the tranquil, suburban homeowner.
2. Red Circle Shootout
An assassin stares down his target. How do you turn that simple action into an iconic moment? First, put yourself in the shoes of John Wick’s target, Iosef Tarasov. In the previous scene, Iosef witnesses Wick tear through the sauna room at the Red Circle club, executing his friends at close range—including a behemoth of a man whom Wick disposes of rather easily. Terrified, Iosef flees onto the dance floor, packed with club-goers blocking his way to safety. He looks back to see John Wick emerge from the crowd. The flashing strobe lights and chaos of the dance floor serve to heighten the intensity and terror of the moment, a terror Iosef feels closing in despite being armed with a gun of his own.
Amidst this backdrop, juxtapose Wick’s patient, slow motion walk with Tarasov’s frantic stumbling and combine that with the hypnotic LCD image behind Wick accompanied by disorienting club music (LED Spirals by Le Castle Vania) and you have one of the most epic scenes in the movie. What follows is an exhilarating flurry of action as Wick fights off wave after wave of attackers in a superbly choreographed and executed fight sequence.
1. “Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back!”
Who could forget this line from the John Wick trailer? In what was our first look at Keanu Reeves as the super-assassin, this line came to epitomize the character and, intercut with hard-hitting action, promised a thrilling, vengeful comeback that was sure to entertain.
Is John Wick working again? Has he returned to the life? Is he back? It seems everyone Wick encounters in the first movie is wondering the same thing, but they never get a straight answer from the even-keeled, man of few words. This is because Wick lets his actions speak louder than his words. All the more reason to love this rare, verbal release of emotion that we witness building inside the character throughout the movie.
In an adrenaline-fueled franchise such as this, the visceral action sequences, carefully choreographed stunt work, and large set pieces will always continue to entertain and amaze. However, it’s important to take time and enjoy the little moments too, moments like John Wick’s one-handed press check in John Wick: Chapter 2.
Super-assassin John Wick is now on the run with nowhere to hide and every killer in the world looking to cash in on his $14 million bounty. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum hits Regal theatres May 17.