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Read this before you see John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

John Wick could have been just another action movie. Another attempt to capitalize on the past fame of its aging star. Another gussied up straight-to-DVD shoot-em-up with no sense of style or flair. What audiences got was something different entirely. 

John Wick functioned as a return to form for Keanu Reeves while opening up something totally new for him and his fans. On an estimated production budget of just $20 million, it managed to net $88 million worldwide. This financial success was buoyed by critical acclaim — The Atlantic's David Sims wrote, "John Wick is no ordinary Hollywood action claptrap, but it's not exactly aiming for profundity either. It achieves an almost impossible goal — being a basically plotless action/revenge drama but seeming utterly distinct all the same."

John Wick sets itself apart from other action movies by putting the focus on style over substance, making sure the secret world of the assassins is bathed in neon and dark shadows. Its hero wears a sharp suit and rocks impeccable facial hair while firing bullets with laser-eyed precision, flowing from one takedown to another. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum hits theaters May 17, and promises to take viewers even deeper into the world of assassins and their various vendettas.

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Keanu's second act

The money line of the first John Wick movie is "People keep asking if I'm back and I haven't really had an answer… but yeah, I'm thinking I'm back." It's as much a statement about the character of John Wick as it is a battle cry for Keanu Reeves. At one time, Reeves was Hollywood dynamite and someone who was seen as incredibly cool. His work in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Point Break made him a youth icon. 1994's Speed cemented him as a box office draw, while Johnny Mnemonic showed his propensity for the truly weird and modern. He eventually starred in a little movie called The Matrix and become enshrined in the DNA of pop culture. Then the Matrix sequels came out, their mixed reception taking a bit of shine off of the original, and Reeves sadly became the butt of a lot of hacky jokes involving the word "whoa."

He went on to star in the weird cyberpunk adaptation A Scanner Darkly, and continued to work on smaller films until jumping into passion projects Man of Tai Chi and 47 Ronin. While Reeves' forays into the kung-fu genre didn't go unnoticed, he didn't truly rise to prominence again until 2014, when he donned a suit and smashed the floor of a mid-century modern apartment to fish out a lock box of guns and gold coins in John Wick. Reeves was back in the spotlight, and he's used the success of the franchise to allow himself to do other interesting projects like Knock Knock and The Neon Demon, and will even be starring in the long awaited Bill and Ted Face the Music alongside Alex Winter.

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Man on the run

The first entry in the John Wick franchise is incredibly straightforward. For those who haven't seen it, a man who has recently lost his wife learns that she had adopted a puppy for him. He takes the puppy in and loves it with all of his heart. After a chance run-in with the dirtbag son of a mob boss, things go wrong. That dirtbag son decides he wants John Wick's car, so he goes and takes it. In the process, he kills John's dog. Turns out, John is a retired assassin who was so good at his job that he's essentially the boogeyman for other hired killers. Unsurprisingly, he's ready to wreak havoc on the criminal underworld until he can exact his revenge. Fairly cut and dry, but a simple story told incredibly well.

Smash cut to John Wick Chapter 2, and we learn a lot more about the secretive world of the assassins. This globetrotting adventure introduces a high council of assassins and criminal masterminds — some of whom have unfinished business with John Wick himself. Santino D'Antonio (Ricardo Scarmarcio) is one such player. He's got a favor to call in and a job for John.  

The job is simple: kill D'Antonio's sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini) so that he can take her seat at the table of the high council. John goes through with it and immediately becomes entangled in a conspiracy that leads to D'Antonio placing a massive contract on John's head to cover his tracks. The hunt for John Wick escalates to the point where John is forced to kill an assassin on the grounds of the Continental — a strict no-no. By the end of Chapter 2, Wick is forced to go on the run as he is made "excommunicado." On his way out, he earns a favor from Winston (Ian McShane) and a one-hour head start to outrun every assassin in the world. That brings us directly into the new film.

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Friends and foes, new and old

The world of John Wick is populated by increasingly eclectic characters. The first film's villain was simply a spoiled son of the mob, played to  hateable scumbag perfection by Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones). The mob of the first John Wick feels ripped straight out of an issue of Garth Ennis' run on The Punisher — they're dangerous, but woefully cartoony. They exist as the mob in a world where it makes sense that a retired super assassin has a case of guns and special assassin money buried underneath a cement floor in his basement. If that version of the mob turns the dial to 11, the characters of Chapter 2 and Parabellum tear the whole knob off.

Chapter 2's Scarmarcio crime family may as well be vampires for the level of arch villainy and opulence they bring to the screen. Cassian (Common) and Ares (Ruby Rose) are like two magical hitmen out of an anime, given their skills and gimmicks. The ante has been upped for Parabellum as a colorful cast of new faces join the world of John Wick. Halle Berry will appear as Sofia, a former accomplice of John's who wields two pistols and two dogs, while Anjelica Huston joins up as the severe, calculating Director. Mark Dacascos will play the nefarious Zero, while comedy favorite Jason Mantzoukas will play the oddly-named and hopefully majorly weird Tick Tock Man.

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The Bowery King

John Wick functions almost as a love letter to the past, present, and future of action movies. It's lovingly shot, with garrote-wire-tight editing, and has even gone so far as to feature fun cameos like spaghetti western legend Franco Nero appearing as the proprietor of the Roman wing of the Continental. Chapter 2 also got cute when Keanu Reeves' Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne joined the cast as the Bowery King, a seemingly homeless man with finger on the pulse of the assassin world and a love for his network of homing pigeons.

With his easygoing charisma and electric chemistry with Keanu Reeves, Fishburne brings a warmth to the series. These two have history and clearly like each other, adding a genuine level of affection between their characters. Here's hoping that, if she's interested, the minds behind the John Wick franchise can find a place for Carrie-Anne Moss, completing the — ahem — Trinity. Seeing the three stars of The Matrix reunited on screen, even for a short time, would be an awesome moment for audiences and the perfect kind of wink-and-nod for the John Wick franchise.

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The very good dogs of John Wick

Dogs are an important part of the John Wick franchise. It all starts with Daisy, the perfect little beagle puppy left behind by John's late wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan). While a bit gruff at first, John quickly warms up to the puppy and becomes just about the perfect dog dad. Of course, the semblance of hope that Daisy brought to John's wife is quickly shattered by the idiotic actions of Iosef Tarasov. After John gets his revenge on Iosef and his father, he finds himself in an unlikely situation and takes a new pitbull under his wing.

The new pooch tags along with John throughout Chapter 2 but has still yet to be given a name. At one point, the new dog is left in the care of Charon (Lance Riddick) at the Continental, but is picked back up by John near the end of the film. A new set of canines will enter the fray in Parabellum, as the assassin Sofia (Halle Berry) is joined by a pair of ferocious looking attack dogs — to match her dual wielding pistols, of course.

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Your room is waiting

Audiences have seen just enough of the dangerous, semi-fantastical world of John Wick to know that there's plenty they haven't seen. And they want more. While Parabellum is letting fans deeper into the world of assassins, those looking for a slightly expanded version of that world may have something to look forward to.

There is currently a spin-off television show in the works at Starz. The Continental will showcase a new kind of adventure in the world of John Wick. Instead of expanding on the adventures of Keanu Reeves' newly un-retired super assassin, The Continental will focus on a brand new character who won't be an assassin at the start of the story, but will be pulled into the world as the story unfolds. Starz has its eyes on making a television show that captures the slick ferocity of the John Wick films and has tapped the original co-directors and producers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, as well as original writer Derek Kolstad. Reeves is also attached as an executive producer.

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Calling in a favor

John Wick's world of assassins runs on three currencies. One, cold hard cash. Two, specially-minted gold coins that are worth more than anything to the right killer. And three, blood markers. The markers are an important part of assassin culture and one of the few things that reign in even the most brutal and relentless of hired killers. A blood marker is only earned when another assassin does someone an immense favor. They can then claim that marker at any time to call in a favor in return. It cannot be refused — it's taken as deathly seriously as spilling blood within the halls of the Continental.

The reason John has to take the job to kill a member of the High Table is due to a marker held by Santino D'Antonio — one that he earned by helping John get out of the life and go live his fairy tale existence with his wife in peace. By the end of Chapter 2, as John Wick goes to take his head start in escaping with an open contract for $14 million on his head, Winston (Ian McShane) gives him a blood marker which may act as his only lifeline now that he's been made excommunicado from the league of assassins.

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Walk the walk

Keanu Reeves has been a lifelong fan and practitioner of martial arts, but few roles have been as demanding of him as John Wick. Reeves went all in and spent three months at a "John Wick boot camp" to work on firearms training, fight choreography, and driving like a maniac. Some of the training involved Reeves working on his drawing, holstering, and even search-and-seizure techniques in the comfort of his own home. This helped him and the stunt team come up with a style of movement and gunplay that is highly unique to John Wick. No one moves quite like Reeves does when he's playing Wick, flowing between inventive takedowns and leaping from one bit of improvised cover to the next.

Reeves is heavily involved in the stunts, and was even allowed to do a highly dangerous car-to-car stunt for the second movie. It'll be a wild ride to see how the stunt team (and stuntmen-turned-filmmakers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch) up the ante for Chapter 3 as John Wick's world only continues to get wilder and more dangerous.

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Assault on the Continental

There are very few absolute rules in the world of John Wick. The most often repeated of these rules is simple: you do not kill on the grounds of the Continental. The impeccably-decorated hotel with world-class service is considered by the assassin community to be completely off-limits for settling feuds or collecting on a contract. The Continental is almost treated as a holy place of rest by the assassins in John Wick. Knowing they have just one safe space in the world comes as a great relief, and they don't just have to rely on honor among thieves to keep the Continental violence-free.

If you, like John Wick in Chapter 2, were to break this rule and kill another assassin while inside the grounds of any of the branches of the Continental, you would be named excommunicado and lose all backing from the League of Assassins, and other assassins will come for you until your last breath. It seems this rule may not apply equally to everyone in the new trailer for Parabellum, as we see a wet works squad of masked gunmen creep their way into the Continental in their hunt for Wick. Things have escalated to the point where others are willing to break one of the ultimate rules just to make John Wick pay and to get paid $14 million in turn.

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Traveling in style

John Wick spends a lot of time running now that he's a wanted man. Even when he's not on the run, he's a man who knows how to travel in style. A lot of the initial movie revolved around the theft of his car, a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 that ends up being coveted by Iosef Tarasov. While Wick is most at home doing breathtaking stunts in the beautiful, classic, All-American muscle car, he also spends time in a 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS in Chapter 2.

It seems that, while John Wick is on the run, he'll be adopting a few different forms of transportation. There's sure to be some death-defying car stunts in Parabellum, but the new trailer features shots from a one vs. all motorcycle chase, as an army of assassins close in on John riding matte black sports bikes. Unsurprisingly, creatively shot and choreographed violence ensues. It also looks like John will be bonding with an animal that's not a dog, as he charges through city streets on a dark horse. One thing's for sure — if it can be used to get away from or engage one's enemies, John Wick will find a way to capitalize on it… and make it stylish as all hell while doing so.