John Wick (retroactively titled John Wick: Chapter 1) is a 2014 American neo-noir action thriller film directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch(uncredited), and was written by Derek Kolstad. It stars Keanu Reeves as the title character John Wick, alongside Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, and Willem Dafoe. It is the first installment in the John Wick film series and is followed by John Wick: Chapter 2 and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. A fourth and fifth installment of the franchise is also in the works to be released in 2022 and 2023.
The story focuses on John Wick (Reeves) who seeks revenge on the son of Russian gangster for stealing his vintage car and killing his puppy, which serves as a memento of his recently deceased wife, Helen. Stahelski and David Leitch directed the film together, though only Stahelski was credited.
Kolstad wrote the screenplay in 2012 and developed it for Thunder Road Pictures. The film was produced by Basil Iwanyk , Leitch, Eva Longoria, and Michael Witherill. It marks Stahelski and Leitch's directorial debut as a team after multiple separate credits as second-unit directors and stunt coordinators. They previously worked with Reeves as stunt doubles on The Matrix trilogy.
The film was met with positive reviews, with critics calling it one of Reeves' best performances and one of the best action films of 2014. It grossed $88 million worldwide against a production budget of $20 million.
An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that killed his dog, the last gift he got from his deceased wife.
Former assassin John Wick loses his wife Helen to a terminal illness. Following her death, John receives a beagle puppy named Daisy, the last gift from Helen to help him cope with his grief. John and Daisy connect and spend time driving around in John's vintage 1969 Ford Mustang. While at a gas station, John encounters Iosef Tarasov, the son of Russian gangster Viggo Tarasov, who tries to buy his car. John refuses to sell, which angers Iosef. That night, Iosef and his henchmen break into John's house to steal his car, leaving John unconscious and killing Daisy.
Iosef takes the Mustang to Aurelio's chop shop to have the VIN changed. Recognizing the car and learning Iosef stole it from John, Aurelio berates the Russian, punches him, and throws him out of the shop. John visits Aurelio, who tells him that Iosef is Viggo's son. Viggo contacts Aurelio to find out why he struck Iosef; Aurielio then reveals about Iosef's actions towards John. Viggo understands Aurelio's reaction and beats Iosef for his stupidity, telling him about John Wick's history as a notorious assassin known as "Baba Yaga " or "The Boogeyman." When John asked Viggo's permission to retire and marry Helen, Viggo assigned him an "impossible task" to complete to leave the assassin's life. John succeeded; his actions laid the foundations for the Tarasov syndicate.
Viggo contacts John and tries to convince him to spare Iosef and not seek revenge. John silently refuses. To save Iosef, Viggo dispatches a twelve-man team to kill John at his house. John takes out all of the assassins and then calls in a service to professionally clean the scene. Viggo places a $2 million bounty on John's head, and even goes as far as offering the contract to John's mentor, Marcus, personally. Marcus warily accepts. John recovers the tools of his trade from under the concrete floor in his home and heads to the Continental Hotel, which caters to the criminal underworld and forbids any "business" from being conducted on the premises. In response, Viggo doubles the bounty for anyone willing to break the Continental's rules and kill John in the hotel.
Winston, the owner of the Continental, informs John that Viggo has Iosef sequestered at the Red Circle nightclub, protected by his men. John assaults the Red Circle to get to Iosef, and almost kills him but is stopped by Viggo's main henchman Kirill, allowing Iosef to escape. Returning to the Continental, John uses their services to tend to his wounds. A fellow assassin, Ms. Perkins attempts to claim the bounty on him by sneaking into his room and trying to kill him. John is alerted to the plan by Marcus, allowing John to incapacitate Ms. Perkins. John gets the location of Viggo's front organization from Ms. Perkins, then leaves her unconscious in the care of Harry, another assassin at the Continental, to await judgment for breaking the hotel's rules. Ms. Perkins kills Harry and escapes.
John heads to the Little Russia church Viggo is using as his front and destroys Viggo's cache of money and blackmail material. Viggo and his men arrive, allowing John to ambush them. However, Viggo's men overpower John and capture him. As Viggo taunts John for believing that he could leave his criminal past behind, John is rescued by Marcus' intervention. Freeing himself, John kills Kirill and forces Viggo to reveal Iosef's location. John also forces Viggo to pull the $2 million contract. John then goes to the safe house and kills Iosef and his bodyguards.
Ms. Perkins informs Viggo that John and Marcus have been in contact. Viggo visits Marcus in his home and tortures him for information before executing him. Viggo contacts John to tell him about Marcus' death and plans to have Ms. Perkins ambush him. However, Winston calls Ms. Perkins into a meeting where she is executed for breaking the rules of the Continental when she killed Harry.
Winston informs John that Viggo intends to escape by helicopter, allowing John to reach him in time. John kills Viggo's henchmen, then engages in a brutal fight with Viggo. John eventually kills Viggo after allowing himself to be stabbed to get close enough to finish him. John stops at an animal clinic on the waterfront to treat his wound and frees a pit bull puppy that was scheduled to be euthanized. John and the dog walk along the same boardwalk where John had his last date with Helen.
- Keanu Reeves as John Wick
- Michael Nyqvist as Viggo Tarasov
- Alfie Allen as Iosef Tarasov
- Willem Dafoe as Marcus
- Adrianne Palicki as Ms. Perkins
- Bridget Moynahan as Helen Wick
- Dean Winters as Avi
- Lance Reddick as Charon
- Toby Leonard Moore as Victor
- Omer Barnea as Gregori
- Daniel Bernhardt as Kirill
- Ian McShane as Winston
- John Leguizamo as Aurelio
- Bridget Regan as Addy
- Thomas Sadoski as Jimmy
- David Patrick Kelly as Charlie
- Clarke Peters as Harry
- Kevin Nash as Francis
- Keith Jardine as Kuzma
- Tait Fletcher as Nicholai
- Kazy Tauginas as Ivan
- Alexander Frekey as Alexander
- Randall Duk Kim as Continental Doctor
- Gameela Wright as Delivery Woman
- Vladislav Koulikov as Pavel
- Munro M. Bonnell as Priest
- Patricia Squire as Elderly Woman
- Vladimir Troitsky as Team Leader
John Wick was conceived by screenwriter Derek Kolstad as a film treatment named Scorn about a contract killer coming out of retirement to seek vengeance. The initial draft was completed after a month, and he pitched the script to various clients with at least three offers coming back interested in the project. Kolstad's influences included film-noir classics, the theme of revenge, and the idea of the antihero and what might play out if the evilest man found redemption only to have it taken away. Kolstad also cited the works of Alistair MacLean and Stephen King in creating the story in terms of world-building and characterization, respectively.
Thunder Road Pictures announced on December 3, 2012, that it had acquired the script with Kolstad agreeing to sell due to plans to make the film immediately. Upon reading the script, the head of Thunder Road Pictures, Basil Iwanyk was immediately drawn to the title character. Iwanyk was also impressed by the screenplay's emotional weight and action themes. After Thunder Road Pictures optioned the script, Kolstad spent several months refining the script. One of the major changes was to the character of John Wick who was originally intended to be a man in his mid-sixties due to the character's fabled reputation in-story. Iwanyk believed that this aspect was of the character was irrelevant, and looked more to casting a veteran of the film rather than an older actor.
It was reported on May 7, 2013, that Keanu Reeves was in negotiations for the lead role in the film. Shortly after, Reeves was confirmed to star in the movie after being shown the script by Iwanyk and Peter Lawson of Thunder Road Pictures. Reeves believed that the script was full of potential. Reeves and Kolstad began to work closely together to develop the screenplay further and the story, with the screenwriter praising Reeves' understanding of how even tiny details could affect the strength of the story. The original title of the film, Scorn, was changed to John Wick because Reeves reportedly kept telling people that he was making a film called "John Wick." The producers agreed and changed the title.
During discussions on the film's story, Reeves got in contact with Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, who he originally met on the set of The Matrix, and inquired if they were interested in choreographing the film's action sequences though he hoped they would direct since he believed that the project and the worlds it created would appeal to them. Stahelski and Leitch were convinced to direct the film due to the quality of the script and Reeves' enthusiasm for the project. They presented a version of the story as a thriller with Wick as an urban legend. With Reeves' support, Stahelski and Leitch pitched the idea to the studio. They were hired to direct the film despite being initially requested to direct the film's second unit. The announcement that Stahelski and Leitch were to direct the film came on May 7, 2013, though it was later ruled by the Directors Guild of America that only Stahelski would be given the director credit. Leitch was subsequently credited as a producer.
The challenges of balancing the film's action scenes with the film's pace and tone were acknowledged by Stahelski, who had dealt with it for individual scenes but never for an entire film. He also stated that the action should be a collaborative entity with the story, not a separate element. Stahelski noted that the story in John Wick did not stop for the film's action sequences, but that they were integrated into the narrative to bring a deeper understanding of the characters
Willem Dafoe was announced as being cast in the role of Marcus on September 12, 2013. On September 19, 2013, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, and Dean Winters were announced as being cast in the film. On October 14, 2013, Bridget Moynahan was cast as John's wife, Helen. On November 27, 2013, Daniel Bernhardt was confirmed to play Kirill.
As part of a cross-promotional deal with Overkill Software, Lionsgate, and Thunder Road Pictures, John Wick was added as a playable character in the online game Payday 2. Other elements from the film were included, such as Wick's signature weapons and a skill tree that allowed for dual-wielding of certain firearms. Fandango offered people who purchased tickets online at select theaters a free download of Payday 2 through Steam.
On August 7, 2015, Lionsgate and Starbreeze Studios announced a partnership to develop a first-person shooter virtual reality game based on the film for the HTC Vive/Steam VR. Development was to be headed by Grab Games, with Starbreeze set to publish. WEVR was to develop an introductory experience for the game. The game was released on February 9, 2017, with the name John Wick Chronicles.
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