John Wick. The name inspires dread in the criminal underworld and love among dogs. And next month he’s back in another action film.
The fourth film brings back Keanu Reeves as widower, legendary assassin and possible Marine Corps veteran John Wick. The man has been through a lot in the series. After the death of his wife, having his car stolen and dog killed, coming out of retirement, carrying out an impossible hit against a member of the High Table, declared “excommunicado” by the criminal-focused Continental Hotel chain and then left on the run after betraying the Elder who sits above the High Table — all of which makes sense over the course of three films — John Wick: Chapter 4 has him still on the run. He has one chance out: win a duel at dawn against a nobleman. He just has to survive until dawn.
This past week, as part of a promotional run dubbed “Wick Week,” a new trailer for the fourth film was released. Two things are clear: John Wick is still able to tear through henchmen with ease and dogs just like the guy.
Wick’s actual status as a Marine is vague. In interviews for the past films, Reeves, Willem Dafoe and director Chad Stahelski have alluded to his possible military background. As for on-screen evidence, the biggest hint is Wick’s large back tattoo that reads “fortis fortuna adiuvat,” Latin for “fortune favors he who is bold.” It’s similar but not identical to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines’ motto of “fortes fortuna juvat,” or “fortune favors the bold.” Fans have latched onto this, associating him with the Marine Corps.
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Over the course of the previous three films he’s shown a wide set of abilities. Most prominently is his marksmanship skills, both with pistols and assault rifles, which point to some overlap with military training. Less consistent with Marine Corps experience are his many close quarter combat skillsets, including Center Axis Relock pistol technique, proficiency in judo and sambo — the latter implied in the third film to be something he’s trained in since childhood — and sword fighting experience. Also the pencils. Remember, John Wick killed people with a pencil on multiple occasions.
Both the third film and the trailers for the fourth show Wick on horseback — in the former he actually pulled off a kill using the horse as a weapon. The military has equestrian units but there’s no signs Wick learned that in service. The fourth film’s trailers also show Wick engaging in combat with axes and nunchucks. Plus there is John Wick’s extensive linguistic abilities, including fluency in Russian and at least conversational levels of proficiency in Italian, Indonesian and other languages. The man has skills.
In reality, Reeves trained extensively for each film. For the first John Wick film, he spent four months learning judo and jujitsu, plus weapons handling. That continued for John Wick: Chapter 2, and for the third installment he worked with former Navy SEAL Shawn Ryan, training on clearing rooms, among other tasks. As for Wick’s more eclectic abilities — nunchucks, remember — that was likely specialized training for the scenes. Reeves himself is an avid motorcyclist so Wick’s handling on a motorcycle in the third film was learned from years of experience.
Those skills are needed. The fourth installment of the franchise is full of well known action stars, including Scott Adkins and Ip Man himself, Donnie Yen. Then again, they’ve never fought someone who kills people with pencils.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is out in theaters March 24.
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