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Franchise / John Wick

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"People keep asking if I'm back and I haven't really had an answer. But now, yeah, I'm thinkin' I'm back."
John Wick

John Wick is a neo noir action thriller franchise set in the shadowy underworld of assassins and criminals.

John Wick (played by Keanu Reeves) is a retired hitman who begins the story attending the funeral of his terminally ill wife. As a final memento, she arranges for John to receive a puppy to care for so he would not be alone. Unfortunately for John, less than a day later, some young Russian gangsters break into his house to steal his Cool Car, and in the process they kill the dog out of spite.

Even more unfortunately for the gangsters, the man they just crossed wasn't just any hitman, but the dreaded "Baba Yaga". So begins a Roaring Rampage of Revenge as a One-Man Army cuts a swath through the underworld of New York City. The sequels go on to explore the consequences of John coming out of retirement through globe-spanning adventures.


Like how The Fast and the Furious is known for fast cars and over-the-top stunts, John Wick is known for its over-the-top fight scenes and loads, and loads, of guns. The films can be best described as what happens when Neo is reimagined in the real world as the deadliest assassin alive.

Not to be confused with game designer John Wick.

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John Wick media:

    Canon Media 
  • John Wick - retroactively called John Wick: Chapter 1 (2014): A hitman comes out of retirement to get revenge on the men who killed his dog and stole his vintage car.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017): Wick is drawn into underworld politics when a mafia boss calls in an old favor.
  • John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019): After the events of Chapter 2, Wick is on the run, with everyone gunning for him.
  • John Wick: Chapter 4 - Hagakure (2023)
  • John Wick: Chapter 5 (TBA)
  • Ballerina (TBA): A Spin-Off about a young woman (played by Ana de Armas) who is raised to be an assassin, pursuing revenge on the hitmen who killed her family.

Comic Books

Live-Action TV

  • The Continental (TBA): A prequel miniseries set in the 1970's and will act as an origin story for both the titular hotel and Winston.

Video Games

  • John Wick Chronicles (2017): A VR game where you play as John Wick, taking down targets in the Continental Hotel using a multitude of weapons.
  • John Wick Hex (2019): A strategy game developed by Mike Bithell (of Thomas Was Alone and Volume fame).

    Media with Licensed John Wick Content 
Video Games with John Wick DLC

The John Wick franchise provides examples of:

  • Ammunition Conservation: John tends to restrict himself regarding how much ammunition he uses against his opponents. This practice gets particular focus in the first film with the Red Circle shootout, where John kills Viggo Tarasov’s men with an average of two and a half bullets per combatant.
  • Arc Words: "Be seeing you, John."
  • Artistic License – Economics: A justified example. The shadow economy of the High Table and the Continental network runs on favors more than money, with the network minting their own gold coins to represent exchange of favors. Bounties are still offered in dollars, and it's unclear how exactly the conversion between the two works.
  • Boom, Headshot!: "Headshot" could be an alternate title for the series. John (and Sofia in Parabellum) always make sure their targets are down, which means almost all of them get at least one bullet to the head.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Heavily averted to degrees almost unseen in the genre, to the point action scenes are planned out to always account for how much ammunition John has, scripting around when he has to reload or grab another firearm once emptied.
  • Car Fu: Action sequences revolving around using cars as weapons show up a few times. In particular, the franchise loves to have Wick himself get hit by a car, and 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.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: The spec script for Ballerina was written as an original story, and was adapted to fit into the John Wick universe after it was purchased by Lionsgate.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Unlike the rest of the series, Keanu Reeves didn't train at Taran Tactical for the first film, resulting in Wick's fighting style being subtly different. The most visible result of this is the complete lack of Product Placement for Taran Tactical in the first film, whereas future films take the opportunity to showcase their logo on several of John's weapons.
    • The first two films dropped multiple hints that Winston is the All-Powerful Bystander and ultimate authority in the assassin's world. He was shown inspecting coins from a craftsman and putting it in circulation and his account number is a string of 1, both implies that he's the creator and central bank of their financial system. He was also shown keeping the book of blood oaths and markers and most notably Santino was always shown shrinking before him despite being a High Table member. The third movie showed that he's really only middle management with most of his authority can be revoked by the High Table.
    • There's a difference in tone from the first movie regarding the underground economy the Continental represents, where the Continental and the gold coins is presented more as this secondary economy used by the underworld rather than the all controlling murder illuminati it becomes in the second and third film. A lot more emphasis is given to the pageantry and the efforts of the Continental to disguise itself, and it's implied it has clients who know nothing of the criminal activities what with the bar that serves assassins being hidden in the basement beyond the laundromat of the hotel. In later movies it seems no one uses the Continental that doesn't know what it's about, and a lot less effort is made to hide the activities of the hotel. It also shows the assassin world being much smaller - the two assassins taking contracts on John are people he knows himself prior (Perkins and Marcus) despite Viggo's contract on John being an open contract. By the third movie it's like half of New York's population is a hitman and John having a contract on him causes dozens of assassins to home in on him.
    • Perkins's willingness to kill inside the Continental is seen as just the money being too good to pass up. Compare the events of the second movie, which shows exactly how big a deal it is.
  • Extremely Short Timespan:
    • Each film takes place over the course of a week at most, and are separated by days at most (the end of Chapter 2 and the start of Parabellum are separated by less than an hour in-universe, which is a plot point), which means that all the physical and emotional battering that John has gone through since his wife died at the start of the first film has taken place over the course of a month at most.
    • In Parabellum, the Director even refers to "all the chaos you've caused in the last few weeks," when chastising John for showing up at the theater; that takes place the same night his excommunicado is in effect, and the final scene of the film is the morning after the seven days the Adjudicator gave Winston and the Bowery King.
  • Faceless Goons: Uses this on a few occasions, most notably during the home invasion scene in the first film, the catacombs fight in the second, and the Casablanca fight and the invasion of the Continental in the third. Otherwise, the films largely avoid this and make a point to show off a mook's face and end-of-life emotions whenever possible.
  • Franchise-Driven Retitling: The first film has been given the subtitle, Chapter 1 to match the sequels.
  • Fun with Subtitles: The franchise has fun Playing With this trope. In the beginning of the first film, when John was a civilian, the subtitled foreign languages were an unobtrusive white text. But as soon as he returns to the criminal underworld, all translations use a bold, noticeable font that highlights significant words with colour, which remains in use for the rest of the series. Subtitles are so ubiquitous the series tries to cram in as many foreign languages as possible, and even has a villain in the second movie who is mute, meaning she can only "speak" subtitles through ASL.
  • Gun Fu: John Wick uses a fusion of Sambo and Center Axis Relock to lethal effect. Unusually for this trope (and despite people depicting him with Guns Akimbo in fanart and elsewhere), John's preference when he goes to work is single-gun.
  • The Masquerade: Though not as distinctly overt as some examples, there's a subtle indication that there are two worlds; one law enforcement, civilians, and mundane existence, and a secret realm of assassins.
    • There's a visual and audible shift when one transitions between the "normal" world and the underworld of criminals and assassins. In the civilian world everything is paler, with a more washed-out color palette and somber music. Once John moves into the underworld of killers and criminals - or said underworld intrudes into the civilian one - the colors become more vibrant and more intense music is played.
    • In more than one case, Winston or other characters speak of the civilian world as being "outside" of the realm of assassins. For example, even though Santino has a Marker given by John, he only cashes it in for John's service when he believes John has "returned" to the world of assassins. The events of both the second and third movies don't outright say it, but civilians don't even seem to be able to perceive assassins killing each other all around them unless it is done so in a way that puts them in danger. John and Cassian can shoot each other with silenced weapons with no response from others, and John and Zero can knife assassins in a crowded train station with no response from anyone nearby.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: In contrast to the 250+ men that John has killed so far throughout the series, the number of female Mooks he has encountered can be literally counted on one hand: Ms. Perkins in the first film, Ares and the Violinist in the second, and the young assassin at Grand Central Station in the third. You can arguably add Gianna D'Antonio to that list as well, although she is merely a non-combatant assassination target who gives up without a fight. Of these characters, only the Grand Central assassin is a completely throwaway extra.
  • Noodle Incident: Characters occasionally mention the "Impossible Task" that Viggo Tarasov gave John as the condition to leave the criminal underworld. The Impossible Task is never described in detail, beyond that John left behind an ocean of corpses over the course of a single night that allowed to Tarasov Crime Family to become the major power players they are today, and that Santino D'Antonio apparently gave John assistance in exchange for a blood debt.
  • Once per Episode: Or rather once per movie we get a massive shootout during the second act that takes up a good portion of the film’s body count.
    • Also, once per movie, the Big Bad calls John (or in the third film, Winston) to engage in some Evil Gloating, only for John to hang up on them in mid-sentence without saying a word.
  • Police Are Useless: The police don't intervene at all past the first few moments in the first two films, with the same cop coming to the home, finding the sheer amounts of carnage Wick was involved with, and, knowing Wick, deciding to leave it at that. Somewhat justified, in that the cops probably know they don't stand anything resembling a chance against the guy, and he Would Not Shoot a Civilian so there's not much to gain. Per the directors, the police and underworld have an understanding that the police won't pry too deep into criminal affairs so long as civilians are left alone and it's kept out of the public eye.
  • Prefers Proper Names: Winston is the only character in the films to refer to John as "Jonathan". But the third film reveals that this too is an alias.
  • Protagonist Title: As one can easily guess, the series is about a hitman known as "John Wick". Though in the third film, it's revealed to be a nickname he adopted after coming over to the United States from Belarus as "Jordani Jovanovich".
  • Retro Universe: The series is clearly set in the present day, and the "ordinary world" is no different from our own. The assassins' underworld, however, is built on a feudal system of fealty, and they have a strong preference for antiquated technology in everything except weaponry: gold coins as currency, rotary phones and typewriters all see use and go unremarked upon.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: There is a reason why the trope's main page image is John Wick killing everyone involved in the murder of his beloved dog.
  • Screw the Rules, They're Not Real!: The criminal underworld in the franchise has a lot of rules, overseen by the High Table and its enforcers, which they argue are "the only thing that separates us from the animals." They take the rules very seriously and have a lot of resources to enforce them, but...
    • In the first movie:
      • Marcus and Perkins both accept the contract on John despite the rule that "no business may be conducted on Continental grounds".
      • Marcus plans to snipe John through his hotel room window. This is clearly against the spirit of the rules, but it's possible he thought shooting into the Continental from across the street was a gray area. In any case, Marcus loses his nerve when he actually sees his old friend, and shoots John's pillow to warn him of Perkins breaking into his room.
      • For her part, Perkins murders another assassin in an escape attempt after John subdues her, and is executed for it by Winston's security.
    • Starting in Chapter 2, John becomes increasingly frustrated with continually being dragged back into the underworld by its rules, culminating in him blatantly violating the Truce Zone when his enemy Santino takes refuge in the Continental and John kills him anyway.
    • In Parabellum, the High Table begins a crackdown on people who aided John against their rules, ultimately making an enemy of the Bowery King (setting up the sequel), who is newer to the scene and already doesn't like either them or their rules.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: While the first movie can be watched standalone on its own, the second one ends on a very clear cliffhanger that leads directly into the third. As the third movie ends in another cliffhanger leading into a fourth, it ends up being a two-part tetralogy. Not that anyone's complaining.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Being a henchman in this universe isn't a fun time; while plenty of attention is given to the conflict and politics of the big names in the criminal underworld, their underlings are treated as little more than collateral damage when those names start falling out. For two examples:
    • In the beginning of Chapter 2, John kills or at least seriously injures a number of mooks on his way to find Abram Tarasov, who he is amicable towards and spares without a fight.
    • Chapter 3 really indulges in this. Zero's men slice their way through both The Director's and The Bowery King's men to get to their respective leaders, after which they're physically punished but left alive. Winston shooting John also counts as this, regardless of Winston's true intentions.


Video Example(s):


Bikes and Swords

Arriving in New York City, John Wick attempts to escape from Zero and his subordinates, who chase him down with motorcycles. What ensues is a battle in a construction highway with swords whilst driving.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / ChaseFight

Media sources: