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The Rules of John Wick’s World

February 15th, 2023The Rules of John Wick’s World

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 opens March 24th

Arriving March 24th, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 marks the fourth film in what has not only become one of the premier modern action franchises, but also a unique and immersive world for audiences to explore in intriguing detail.

Long after Keanu Reeves’ title character has finished battling literal armies of highly trained, cold-blooded killers, as well as those powerful leaders at the top of the High Table, we’ll have an entire society to delve into, thanks to the detail and imagination of writer Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski. Here are the rules of John Wick’s world.

Rule #1: Be Nice to the Dog

The first three JOHN WICK films have earned more than $580 million worldwide. That’s a remarkable achievement for a franchise that came out of nowhere, after THE MATRIX fight choreographer Chad Stahelski and his longtime partner, David Leitch, directed Derek Kolstad’s lean, mean script about an assassin (Reeves) who’s drawn out of retirement after Russian mobsters kill Daisy, the dog he received as a gift from his late wife (Bridget Moynahan).

Certainly, “don’t kill a dog” is perhaps the No. 1 rule that all films should follow. Even so, it established a fascinating foundation for the world and mythology of JOHN WICK that continues to expand with each new installment and each new choice that the character makes.

Rule #2: The Continental Rules

The world’s nucleus is The Continental, an elegant, mysterious hotel where people like John Wick come for lodging and various sorts of information. You can find gossip, new assignments, and other insider information about members of this deadly, secret society at the hotel.

Winston Scott (Ian McShane) is its avuncular owner, a man who trades in murder but possesses an unexpected soft spot for John Wick. An authority figure who’s himself shrouded in mystery, in the first film, Winston helps John find the men who killed Daisy. Later, Winston gives Wick a tremendous gift — an hour-long “head start” after a contract is put out to all of the worldwide members of The Continental to hunt Wick down and kill him. Even when it would be in his best interests to turn on “Baba Yaga,” Winston continues to stick by his man.

Rule #3: No Business in The Continental

John Wick earned that would-be death sentence because he broke The Continental’s biggest rule: Do not conduct “business” – as in, don’t kill anybody – on the premises. Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), a fellow assassin who targets John in the first film, learns this lesson the hard way after she kills another colleague on hotel grounds. To be fair, she was incentivized by the prospect of a double bounty on John’s head.

Wick receives his own contract in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2. Italian crime boss Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) attempts to kill John, and then announces plans to seek indefinite refuge within the walls of The Continental, where he (supposedly) cannot be touched.

What’s consistently thrilling about the JOHN WICK films is how his allies and opponents alike try to stay out of his way. Though there’s a hierarchy among these sometimes-honorable thieves, they all know Wick’s “work” and don’t want to become part of it. Some, like Winston, admire his efficiency and sheer effectiveness as a killer. Others, like the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), broker temporary deals with Wick in order to further their own criminal enterprises — and perhaps to avoid being his next target.

Rule #4: Maintain Honor

That largely unspoken code of honor helps define the choices that John makes, especially when he’s violating it — either because his target did first, or they’re exploiting the code. Aurelio (John Leguizamo) is a chop shop proprietor who refuses to dismantle John’s prized Ford Mustang after Tarasov’s son (Alfie Allen) steals it, and then provides a safe haven for John after he retrieves the car from a competitor.

In JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2, John faces Cassian (Common), a largely silent killer with whom he’s evenly matched, and extends him the courtesy of not killing him after their protracted face-off ends in a near-stalemate. And John prevails upon the Bowery King for assistance on the eve of his excommunication from The Continental’s ranks and protections.

Later on, in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM, when Wick is facing off with Shinobi #1 (Cecep Arif Rahman) and Shinobi #2 (Yayan Ruhian) in an intense fight in Zero’s (Mark Dacascos) glass lair, both henchmen treat the retired assassin with the utmost respect, saying “It is an honor to fight with you, Mr. Wick,” and also never sneak-attacking him between rounds of brutal close quarters combat.

Rule #5: Honor The Marker

Another key rule in the JOHN WICK franchise is to always honor the “marker,” a blood oath that can be used at any time to call in any favor. Reeves’ assassin is more than aware of the consequences of not honoring the blood oath, as his home and possessions were blown to bits in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 after he refused to help Santino D'Antonio in the early goings of the movie. Wick later honors the marker, albeit reluctantly, to avoid further consequences for his actions.

In JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM, we see John Wick call in a favor with a marker from Sofia Al-Azwar (Halle Berry).

Rule #6: No Help For The Excommunicado

Break any number of these rules in the JOHN WICK universe and run the risk of being declared “Excommunicado,” which results in the immediate loss of all Continental privileges and resources, effectively ending your protection from the assassins who can kill with no repercussions.

Once Wick kills Santino D'Antonio inside the Continental in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2, Winston makes the painful decision to blacklist him, which all but guarantees a death sentence since he now has no protection. Or, that would be the case for anyone but “Baba Yaga.”

Rule #7: Survive

Survival is surely a major priority for anyone trying to play by the rules of John Wick’s world.

So, what does all of this mean for “Baba Yaga” in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4? Thought to be dead in the eyes of the High Table after Winston shot him from the Continental’s roof at the end of the third movie, Wick is rescued and brought to health by the Bowery King, establishing a partnership with the sole purpose of wiping out the major players in the shadowy organization.

When the fourth installment picks up, Wick and the Bowery King’s forces will make one final push to defeat the High Table, no matter what it takes. All that matters is that he survives long enough to enact one final piece of revenge.

Suffice it to say that more than a few lingering questions will be answered when JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 arrives in AMC Theatres. But the emerging legacy of the franchise is that even after the title character has killed everyone in his path, what endures is the rich, intriguing world-building of the franchise and all of the little details that make it feel vivid, believable and most of all, alive.

 JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 opens on March 24th

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