- "No one sneaks up on me anymore, thanks to you. I am all-seeing and all-knowing."
- —The Bowery King in John Wick: Chapter 2
The Bowery King is the head of The Soup Kitchen, an underworld intelligence network disguised as a homeless shelter.
There is little information about Bowery King's past. At some point in his life, he was targeted by John Wick but somehow managed to survive despite being cut twice by John.
Soon after, he took control of The Soup Kitchen, a homeless shelter, where he created an underground empire. Recruiting a large number of beggars, vagrants, and panhandlers to act as his eyes and ears in the city, and training pigeons to act as messengers, he established a large intelligence and data network across New York, without using the internet or phones, thus remaining anonymous and untraceable. He then informally became an adjutant to The High Table, bound under their rules but operating independently.
John Wick: Chapter 2
After John barely evades Cassian and multiple assassins who are after the $7 million bounty set by Santino D'Antonio, John, desperate, drops a coin into a cup of one of the panhandlers in the subway, who proceeds to hide him under his pile of garbage against a group of assassins disguised as janitors, while constantly shouting conspiracy theories and obscenities to hide him.
The panhandler brings John to the Soup Kitchen where he meets with Bowery King, who is tending to his pigeons. John, unarmed and with few other options, request firearm support from Bowery King. He is at first amused with that fact but reluctantly provides him with a single handgun with only 7 rounds, one per million.
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
Immediately after Winston announces that John has been deemed "excommunicado", Bowery King contacts the Continental Hotel staff and announces that he will oblige with The High Table rules and announces that John is banned from using the services of The Soup Kitchen.
Soon after, while tending to his pigeons, he is visited by The Adjudicator. After a casual small talk about his business, they pull out a firearm, identifying it as the same one that Bowery King supplied to John, and announces that he has broken the rules of The High Table, and announces that he is to resign in a week and receive punishment for his actions. Bowery King angrily rebuffs them, lamenting his status and the fact that he himself has risen up to his position, and that at the moment when he provided John with a firearm, he wasn't excommunicated. However, his reasoning falls on deaf ears. However, he angrily retorts that he will not step down.
The next day, a group of Japanese assassins lead by Zero, hired by The Adjudicator, arrive at The Soup Kitchen and proceed to murder most of his men without much effort. The Adjudicator arrives on the rooftop where, again, Bowery King is tending to his pigeons. Impressed by their determination, he pledges his loyalty to The High Table and accepts penance for disobeying them. As punishment, Zero maims him by brandishing his sword and slicing him seven times (one for each bullet he provided to John) across his torso, stomach, and face, leaving him horribly injured and near death, before they leave.
After John is shot by Winston and falls off of the roof of the Continental, he is rescued by one of the panhandlers working for Bowery King, and John, badly injured, is brought to him. Acknowledging his injuries and comparing it to his own, Bowery King asks John if he is angry with The High Table. After John replies yes, Bowery King reveals that he is waging a war against The High Table for unfairly punishing him and killing his men, revealing that he lied to them about being loyal and stepping down from his position and that he only took the punishment because he was forced to do so.
Bowery King is a mysterious person, with his real name unknown. He spends most of his days on the rooftop of the Soup Kitchen, tending to his pigeons.
- Master Networker: Bowery King placed most of his men, mostly beggars, and panhandlers, on strategic transport hubs in the city (near large squares, the Grand Central Terminal, or in the subway), where they serve as his eyes and ears. Since all of them masquerade as beggars, many playing the role of mentally challenged homeless people, they are largely ignored by the general public, allowing him to operate in relative secrecy. The Soup Kitchen also serves as his headquarters, where, under the guise of being a homeless shelter, he constructed a vast complex of tunnels and escape passages, allowing his men to travel discreetly across Manhattan without much notice. Unlike Winston, Sofia and many others, who were elected by The High Table to their positions, he created his own position and offered his services to the Table, allowing him broader access to the criminal network. This has positively affected his status.
Notes and Trivia
- Chapter 2 and Parabellum are the first films in which Lawrence Fishburne and Keanu Reeves co-starred together since The Matrix trilogy.
- Fishburne himself asked Reeves for a chance to receive a role in the film after seeing and enjoying the first film and immediately accepted the role upon reading the script.
- The Bowery King is a reference to medieval times, where it was common for beggars (equivalent to modern homeless), would be organized under a 'beggar king' and controlled a kind of underworld within cities. These beggar kings are believed to have maintained large networks of intelligence gathering, as people would ignore the presence of the beggars, and talk more openly around them. That information then being sold on to thieves in the city. This same situation is referenced in a number of games, most notably the Elder Scrolls series.
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