The movie opens with some psychedelic renderings of the four things that have sucked John Wick back into his old life – gold coins, guns, ammo…and a Marker.
A quick recap from the last film: John Wick is a former-former assassin. He used to be a hardcore assassin but quit after he met a woman who would become his wife. After ten idyllic years of marriage, she gets cancer and dies. Her dying act is to gift a puppy to John so that he could grieve unalone. Unfortunately, his puppy is killed and his car is stolen by Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones, so he kills Theon and Theon’s dad and all of Theon’s dad’s friends. This gets the attention of a former work-friend, who looks suspiciously like an Italian Robert Downey Jr. He calls in a Marker John owes him from his old assassin days, forcing him to kill Italian RDJ’s sister. After completing the Marker, Italian RDJ, being a member of the upper/ruling class of the assassin world, double crosses John and has a contract put on him for $7 million. John solves all that guy’s problems, but he does it on Continental grounds, which are immune to such goings-on. As such, he gets kicked out of the club, or ‘excommunicado.’
As we pick up 20 minutes after the end of John Wick 2: Wick Harder, it’s a rainy start to John’s run. His dog, Dog, is keeping up with him. Interspersed with these scenes are goings-on about the Switchboard (which I had always assumed was in The Continental Hotel from the previous films) staffed entirely by Suicide Girls. We can infer from later in this film that this Switchboard is in an as-yet-unnamed location, but wherever they are, they have a heck of a lot of ticker tape machines, like old-timey stock market rooms. Their computer system is also incredibly ancient, even having monochrome ‘green screen’ monitors. I would guess that keeps them from getting hacked, but man has that got to be inconvenient. Not many people know how to run MS-DOS anymore. We also see that the contract on John has been doubled to $14 million, which is a LOT of money for one man’s life.
Ian ‘Winston Swearengen’ McShane returns to The Continental after his jaunt in the park at the end of John Wick 2: Wick Harder, and converses with Lance ‘Cedric from The Wire’ Reddick, calling him by his name in the Wickiverse for the first time – Charon, the Greek ferryman across the river Hades. Charon hopes for John’s survival, and Winston puts John against the entire city chasing a $14 million bounty as even odds.
As John makes his way through the city, he happens upon Rafi from The League, being a loopy homeless guy who’s apparently part of Morpheus’s (in this film called The Bowery King) network of spies, assassins and general men-about-town. Rafi reminds John that time keeps on slippin’, slippin’ slippin’, into the future. John heeds that advice, and hails a cab, that, shockingly, seems to be a part of this whole assassin world, as the cabbie soon accepts a coin in payment to take Dog to The Continental. Unless we’re to assume all cabs in NYC are part, which would make cab rides a more perilous proposition.
Anyway, John jumps out after seeing to Dog and runs to the New York Public Library. When he arrives, he gets directions from the Information Desk to a book on Russian folklore from 1864. When he finds the book, he takes it out to reveal that it’s been hollowed out, and contains a picture of his wife, five gold coins, an ornate cross necklace and a Marker. As he is emptying the book of everything but the picture of his wife, the Philadelphia 76ers center, Boban, makes an appearance. Apparently, he’s an assassin, and he’s not shy about jumping the clock on the excommunicado order. That ghoulishly tall jackass pulls out what looks like a fillet knife and takes a run at John, getting a good stab in on John’s shoulder. While John has no weapons at hand, it doesn’t really matter, and Boban gets killed with a book (A BOOK!) for his trouble. By this time, John only has ten minutes left.
Cut to Morpheus in the Honeycomb Hideout. He talks to his followers about the developments of the day, including John’s extermination of the jerk what crossed him. Although Morpheus helped John complete this task, he says they will honor John’s new excommunicado status, because $14 million is, again, a TON of money.
With five minutes left, John makes it to a doctor’s office, who ends up being the Keymaker from the Matrix 2, who was also the Continental doctor in the first Wick. He doesn’t want to treat John, but ends up getting talked in to it. He first salts the wound, noting that he nicked an artery, and then proceeds to sew John up. Unfortunately, time runs out, so he has to stop, for fear of retribution for helping John after he is excommunicado. John finishes the job himself, and with guidance from the Keymaker, gets painkillers from the stash. The Keymaker immediately regrets this bit of advice and pulls a Derringer. He hands it to John and believing THEY would know he helped John, directs John to shoot him in two nonvital areas.
John resumes his nighttime jog, being chased through the Antiques district. He ends up ducking into a storehouse of antique mirrors and lanterns, that also, as it turns out, houses a smorgasbord of antique firearms, including a water-cooled machine gun, a cannon, and several revolvers. In homage to Tuco’s scene in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, he disassembles several Remington 1875 Single Action Armys, and assembles a setup to his liking, carefully clocking the cylinder just in time to blow the head off the first man through the door. John fights his way to the Hall of Antique Knives and Other Cutlery, where he and the fellow chasing him simultaneously decide to break some glass and start chucking knives at each other. He pincushions several of them, and stabs a few more in the head for good measure, even burying a hatchet in a few skulls along the way.
John makes it back to the street, only to be run down by Italians in two Cadillacs. They chase him into a set of horse stables, which really makes me question where they are. This layout makes no sense in any city anywhere in the world. Anyway, John leads they Italians into the stables and kills them with horses. On more than one occasion, he plays ring around the horsey until he gets afront a horse, and an Italian at the rear end. He then slaps the horse, inducing a kick rearward, finding an Italian’s head in all cases. Eventually, there are no more Italians, and John commandeers a Clydesdale, and rides the hell out of there. As he exits, a couple of assassins on motorcycles try their luck, to no avail.
Our hero eventually makes his way to the Tarkovsky Theatre. The ticket agent informs him that they’re closed (yet she is still in her station), until he flashes the cross necklace, and is then granted admittance. He is taken before a table of Russian toughs, to whom he pays the gold coins from the book. He also leaves the Marker, and his belt (you’ll see what later). He takes the cross with him and intrudes on a solo ballet rehearsal. The ballerina has several bruises and Russian tattoos, and the Director watching the rehearsal is played by Anjelica Huston.
John supplicates to Anjelica, who asks him what he’s doing there. He tells her that he still has his ticket, and produces the cross necklace. She tells him that he’s brought death to her doorstep, and calls him by his apparent birth name, Jardani Jovanovich, of Belarus. So I guess everyone in the ballet theatre is Belarusian, not Russian.
Anjelica takes John on a tour of the facilities, through the ballet training room, the wrestling mat room, the Kommando-training room, and finally to her chambers. John tells her he wants passage to Casablanca in Morocco. She takes the cross necklace, tears the cross off, and hands it to one of her flunkies, who sticks it in the fireplace, heating it up. The flunky uses the heated cross to brand John, and Anjelica tells her flunky to take John to a lifeboat.
Smash cut to a buzzcut gal that looks like Sinead O’Connor. She enters the Continental, and hands Charon a blue coin. He calls Winnie and tells him that an Adjudicator has come to call. She is apparently an enforcer or judge for the High Table. Sinead tells Winnie that even though he has served the High Table and been of service for forty years, since John broke the rules on Continental grounds, she’s here to adjudicate HIM. Winnie’s got seven days to get his affairs in order, and then he’s supposed to resign.
Sinead then goes to Morpheus’ Honeycomb Hideout, and Rafi is there as Morpheus’ second-hand man. She tells Morpheus that since he gave John the Kimber 1911 that killed a member of the High Table, he also has a week to get his house in order, and then he, too, is to abdicate. Morpheus tells her that nah, he’s good. Sinead reiterates her position and then bails.
Star wipe to Casablanca, Morocco. John has somehow gotten there in about 7 hours, so that lifeboat must have had a rocket shoved up its tailpipe. He gets off the boat, and heads down an alley, pursued by three men. He fights them to a standstill, and a fourth man appears telling the three men to knock the grabass off, because the Manager of the Casablanca branch of the Continental (The Intercontinental?) has extended an Amnesty to John until further notice. One fella doesn’t like that and tries to have a go at John again, only for the fourth man to shoot him dead for his troubles. The fourth man sees him in to the manager and bids him luck.
The manager ends up being Halle Berry, and her and John apparently have a bit of history. Her two dogs first come in, growling and carrying on in a manner that pretty much demonstrates their distaste for John. Halle saunters in, and the reception doesn’t get much warmer. She shoots him and then compliments him on his bulletproof suit (Side note: while this suit could probably stop a pistol round, it would still HURT. I mean, broken ribs and other bones aside, ballistic pressure waves are absolutely a thing). Her preferred weapon appears to be a SIG P365 with a threaded barrel.
John pulls out the Marker he took from his hidey-hole book, and I guess it’s a Marker John holds on Sophia. He tells her he’s cashing it in and wants her to take him to her old boss, Berrada. She’s unhappy with that request, and John repeats that HE’S GOT A MARKER, BAHGAWD. John offers to tell Halle where her daughter lives, and she tells him she’s cut her daughter out of her life for her daughter’s own good, and to keep his trap shut because sometimes you have to kill what you love. John reiterates that they’ll be even, and Halle counters that John will owe her, like, SO MUCH.
Sinead goes to Chinatown, back in NYC, and visits Jimmy Lee from the Double Dragon movie, who is a sushi chef and also apparently a head assassin teacher guy (gotta wonder which job is his side-hustle out of the two). Jimmy offers Sinead some fugu, a poisonous fish. She starts the regaling of the Legend of John Wick to Jimmy, and he stops her, and says he’ll take the job of killing him, saying that he has served, and will be of service (apparently the tagline of this film, since it’s the third or fourth time we’ve heard it).
Jimmy takes a bunch of his students to the ballet theatre, and just straight mercs everybody. The last person standing is Anjelica Huston, and Sinead appears and makes Anjelica repledge her fealty, after the betrayal of giving John passage out of the city whilst he was excommunicado. As a sign of this fealty, Anjelica lets Jimmy stab her through both hands. That’s apparently the end of it.
Meanwhile, Halle is kitting up for John’s ‘conversation’ with her old boss. John tells her to chill, he just wants to talk, and Halle tells him that John NEVER ‘just talks.’ One piece of her kit is a gun hidden in one of her dog’s bulletproof vests.
They go and meet Berrada, and it turns out to be Bronn from Game of Thrones. He finally has his castle, as that’s where his headquarters is, and he’s in charge of smelting the gold coins everybody uses in this world. I really have to wonder what the actual value of these coins is. I mean, he’s smelting actual gold, so there’s some intrinsic value, but one coin seems to buy everything from the disposal of one body to watching a prisoner to buying a drink at a bar to paying for a cab ride for a dog. It’s just…it’s all over the place. There is no consistency to the value of these things.
Anyway, Bronn gives John a tour of the facilities, ending up on a picturesque terrace, where Bronn has the first Marker ever made, and the first gold coin ever made, representing the two tenets of the social contracts in this world. They ruminate on the etymology of the word ‘assassin’ for a while before getting down to brass tacks – John wants directions to the one who sits ABOVE the High Table – the Elder. Bronn tells John to wander the desert until he gets tired, keep going, find the constellation Canis Minor (the dog that chased Orion) in the sky, follow it for a while, and then someone will find you.
After that exhaustingly vague set of directions, Bronn tells Halle that he’s keeping one of her dogs that she brought as payment for the directions. Halle ain’t having none of that, so Bronn shoots one of the dogs in the bulletproof vest. Halle takes even less kindly to that, pulls her hidden gun, and her and John close the eyes of everyone present but Bronn. Halle sics one of her dogs on him, biting him in the crotchal region. As an exclamation point, Halle kneecaps him as well. Walking out, Halle justifies to John that, “He shot my dog.” John, of all people, understands.
Fighting their way out, boy does those dogs come in handy. Like furry, bitey missiles. At one point, one of the dogs scales a wall to bite a guy’s junk off, which is their go-to move (which I’ve gotta admit, is both terrifying and effective). So, there’s that. Eventually, John and Halle steal a Land Rover and drive off into the night.
Come morning, they’re in the middle of nowhere desert, and Halle, John, and the dogs all get out to stretch their legs. Fortunately, there’s a bowl and a bottle of water in the back of this particular stolen vehicle, so Halle dumps most of the water in the bowl for her dogs. She goes to offer John the last bit but fakes him out and drinks it all herself. She does, however, spit a small bit back in the bottle and gives essentially her backwash to John. John takes it and wanders off in no particular direction.
Back in Morpheus’ Honeycomb Hideout, Jimmy and his minions slice and dice Morpheus’ forces, at several points literally jumping out of shadowy corners they’ve been sitting in for God knows how long. Eventually, a path is cut through for Sinead to come a-callin’, ‘cause it’s time to pay the piper. Morpheus more clearly states his position, telling her ”and the horse you rode in on,” so she has Jimmy give him seven cuts, felling Morpheus.
In the desert, John is on his pilgrimage, when he finally falls, tumbling down a sand dune. A random traveler happens upon him, out of all the spots in the entire goddamn desert, throws him over a camel, lashes him down, and carries him off.
John awakens in a pavilion set up, in the presence of the Elder, who is Sameed from Wonder Woman, an actor who is significantly younger than most of the other actors in the movie, so “Elder” is an odd title for him. Anyway, Sameed asks John why he wants to live, why he’s fighting so hard. John tells him about his dead wife, and how he feels he has to stay alive to remember her. This is a weird bit of logic, to be kind, solely because he’s not a Highlander – he’s gonna die at some point, even if of old age. John has always been presented as a practical man, so this feels like a stretch to me. Regardless, Sameed offers John a chance to return to the fold and be forgiven, if he will but kill Winnie, John’s friend. John acknowledges this offer by cutting off his ring finger with a handy chisel and giving Sameed his wedding ring.
John then comes back to NYC. Keep in mind, this is a 3,600-mile trip from a populated area, which would take 7 hours on a non-stop flight were one readily available, so maybe he teleported. Either way, he’s BAAAAAACK. As John works his way through the subway, his trail is picked up by two assassins. As he prepares to deal with them, four guardian angels appear, and swiftly and efficiently (but surprisingly covertly) dispatch the pair. The four then motion John up the stairs to Grand Central Station. Upstairs, we see Jimmy Lee waiting for John. They stare each other down with smoldering intensity, and when they start moving toward each other to consummate their stares, a gaggle of schoolchildren file between them. John stops, so Jimmy follows suit, taunting John that he wouldn’t have stopped for the kids (even though he did).
Soon after, one of Jimmy’s boys tries to sneak behind John and gets just flat-out killed in return. John then disappears WHILE JIMMY IS STARING AT HIM.
He makes his way to a freight dock somehow attached to the subway, kills two more of Jimmy’s boys that were keeping motorcycles warm for some reason, steals a bike and rides off into the night. Against all odds, Jimmy and his boys give chase on a clutch of motorcycles appearing out of nowhere. They catch up to John on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which is absolutely NOWHERE near Midtown (the location of Grand Central Station). It is 15 miles away.
For whatever reason, the chasing riders pull out swords instead of guns, and it…it doesn’t work out for them. John grabs a sword from one of the riders, and pretty well kills everyone, even sticking his sword through the front wheel of one of the bikes, and endo-ing it. He kills everyone but Jimmy Lee, and makes it to The Continental, where he crashes the bike, rolls over and slaps his palm on to the steps of the Continental entrance. Evidently, we now operate under olly olly oxen free rules, because this is enough presence on Continental grounds for Charon to come running out and stop Jimmy Lee from shooting John in the head.
John demands to speak to his manager, so Charon shows them both into a lounge area, where Jimmy Lee just about sits in John’s lap. I mean, he gets uncomfortably close. Jimmy Lee just about whispers in John’s ear that they’re the same, in that they’re both Masters of Death. John quickly and richly disagrees, before Charon reappears to spirit John away to see Winnie.
Charon shows John to the penthouse of the building, which is a series of rooms with glass walls and floors. Winnie’s there and tells John that he knows about John’s deal with Sameed. He offers John a pistol to complete his task, but John refuses. Sinead the Adjudicator then pops up like a Jill in the Box, despite this being an entirely glass structure, stairs and all. John tells her nah, and Winnie gives her a Randy Jackson ‘that’s gonna be a no from me, dog,’ when asked if either man is to comply with killing the other or stepping down, respectively, so she makes a call and ‘deconsecrates’ the Continental, meaning that business, or killin’, can be conducted on Continental grounds. She also calls in reinforcements and tells John and Winnie that she’ll be waiting in a suite for them to die or change their minds. After she turns and leaves, Winnie asks John what he needs, and he goes full Neo, stating that he needs “Guns. Lots of guns.”
They meander down to the basement vault, which has a MASSIVE door and happens to be a fully stocked armory. Meanwhile, everybody and their brother all try to check out of the hotel at once, causing chaos in the lobby. Jimmy Lee is shown kitting up for his Boss Battle by shaving his head. Now, I realize grooming standards are important, but is this really the time?
Sinead’s reinforcements arrive via two ominously-blacked out luxury coach buses. They pile out in a mass of murdered-out tacticool gear. Interspersed with this, we see John loading and strapping on no less than forty mags (for rifle AND pistol), going full evening-wear battle rattle in his suit.
The reinforcements start their breach by throwing every flashbang ever made into the lobby. Winnie’s response is to kill the lobby lights and light up some green rave-style light strips hung on every conceivable surface. Charon leads the hotel security force, who may as well all be wearing red shirts, for all the good they do. Despite their best efforts, they cannot penetrate the just MAGIC armor the reinforcements are sporting, that shrug off everything they and John can shoot at them. John quickly figures out that their full-body armor and helmets are completely impenetrable, so he starts shooting them in the back of the neck, which seems to do wonders for the whole killin’ thing. Another solution he happens upon is just flipping up the visors on their helmets and shooting them in the face, which really seems like a design flaw. However, John quickly tires of this, and the security force is wholly decimated to a man, save Charon.
Charon and John, frustrated at their lack of easy killin’, stroll back into the vault for ‘more firepower,’ in Charon’s words. They select Benelli M2 Super 90s, running slugs. Heading back upstairs, these seem MUCH more effective, going full Gallagher on several of the reinforcement’s heads. All the while, John’s pulling reloads that would make Jerry Miculek proud.
John and Charon fight their way through the hotel, eliminating all the reinforcements they encounter, ending up in the Continental Pool Room. John tumbles into the pool with a reinforcement at one point, and the reinforcement’s rounds have the trajectory of a banana, failing to traverse the six feet of water between them. John gets the upper hand and dispatches this poor jerk, only for another reinforcement to be waiting for him. But before either man can get a shot off, Jimmy Lee stabs the guy in the back, gleefully declaring that only HE gets to kill John. Pretty sure Jimmy is infatuated with John, getting all possessive and in his personal space.
Sinead calls Winnie, threatening to keep this relentless pace up, and Winnie hangs up on her mid-threat, with petulant glee.
During this call, John somehow ends up in the glass penthouse area again, facing what we presume are Jimmy Lee’s top two henchmen. One of them is Mad Dog from The Raid. They casually whip the snot out of John for a while, lamenting the condition that John is in. Apparently, they were REALLY looking forward to this fight, and it just isn’t living up to their expectations. They respectfully re-set and allow John to gather himself. They all agree on knives as the weapon of choice and proceed to have quite the knife fight. It culminates in John removing his belt, and using it as a flail, schooling both men and bodyslamming them through the glass floor, where they decide they’ve had enough, and heroically decide to pass out.
Jimmy Lee reappears, and John ghosts him, dancing about, in and out of view (again, in a completely transparent glass room), until he just anticlimactically pikes him in the heart.
Somehow, Sinead realizes she’s out of men, and John’s still standing, so she calls Winnie and asks for a parlay. Winnie agrees, and all three meet on the rooftop lounge at dawn. Sinead declares that the High Table is the High Table and can do this dance all day every day and twice on Sundays. Winnie counters with the assertion that the whole of New York City has HIS back. To save face, Sinead then makes the logical leap that Winnie’s been fighting her all night because he just wants to keep control of the Continental. Everyone accepts this explanation, and Sinead declares the Continental open for business once more, saving the local rec center from the greedy developers.
Someone asks what happens to John, and Winnie promptly turns to John and shoots him so many times he falls off the roof. A nigh-invincible assassin was just unceremoniously MERC’D by a septuagenarian hotelier. I gotta say, NOT how I pictured this ending. And when he falls off the roof, he BOUNCES between buildings like a damn pinball in a clothes dryer.
It’s all hugs, backslaps and congratulations all the way around, and Sinead leaves the hotel. But when she goes out to her car, *dun*Dun*DUNNNNN* John’s body is GONE! Sinead calls Winnie and informs him of this shocking turn of events, and Winnie does the verbal equivalent of a shoulder shrug ‘you-win-some-you-lose-some’ half-assed apology, and that’s that.
I THINK NOT!
Cut to the Honeycomb Hideout, where a real havin’-a-bad-day looking Morpheus is still holding court with Rafi…and JOHN’S UNCONSCIOUS BODY. You’ve been Shyamalan’ed! John’s not dead, and neither is Morpheus! This has all been a simulation in THE MATRIX! Goddamn, would THAT have been a twist ending.
Anyway, John really does regain consciousness, and Morpheus really is there. Morpheus tells John that if you come at the King, you best not miss, making his feelings on the High Table known. He asks John how HE feels, and John pretty emphatically states that he’s pretty unhappy now. Well crap. I mean, John’s killed HUNDREDS of people in (movie-time) two weeks or so, on MULTIPLE continents. Jesus Christ, that’s a lot of effort to put in for NOT being unhappy. And now you’re mad? Wow. I pity the fool that catches John Wick true ire.
They’re clearly setting this up to have another sequel. Oddly, Keanu has gone on record during this round of promotion for JW3 that this will probably be the last John Wick film. So, this ending scene is downright baffling to me.
Regardless, this one gets a 5/5 rifle slugs to the head.
If you want to yell at me for getting something wrong, you can find me on Twitter at @NormFromCheers.