After John Wick (Keanu Reeves) loses his wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan) to a terminal illness, he receives a puppy named Daisy, per Helen's instructions, to help him cope with her death. He connects with the puppy and they spend their day driving around in his vintage 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1. At a gas station, he encounters a trio of Russian gangsters whose leader, Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen), insists on buying his car, but John refuses to sell it. The mobsters follow John to his home that night, knock him unconscious, steal his car, and kill Daisy.
Iosef takes the Mustang to a chop shop run by Aurelio (John Leguizamo) to have the VIN changed. Aurelio recognizes the car and, upon learning that Iosef stole it from John, punches him before throwing him out of his shop. John visits Aurelio, who tells him Iosef is the son of Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), the head of the Russian crime syndicate in New York City. Viggo, informed by Aurelio of Iosef's actions, beats and berates Iosef, explaining to him that John Wick was his best assassin, nicknamed "the Boogeyman." When John wanted to retire and marry Helen, Viggo gave him an "impossible task": killing all of his competitors in a single night. John succeeded, establishing the Tarasov syndicate.
Viggo tries to talk John out of seeking retribution, but John silently refuses. Viggo then sends a twelve-man hit squad to John's house, but John kills them all and has the bodies professionally removed. An unsurprised Viggo places a $2 million bounty on John's head and personally offers the contract to Marcus (Willem Dafoe), John's mentor. John seeks refuge at the Continental Hotel, which caters exclusively to the criminal underworld and permits no "business" on its premises. Viggo doubles the bounty for those willing to break the rules to kill John at the Continental.
John learns from Winston (Ian McShane), the Continental's owner, that Viggo has Iosef protected at his nightclub, the Red Circle. John enters the Red Circle and kills his way to Iosef, but Iosef escapes. John retreats to the Continental to treat his wounds. Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), an assassin and former acquaintance of John's, sneaks into John's room to kill him, but Marcus warns John. John subdues Perkins after a brutal hand-to-hand fight and forces her to reveal the location of Viggo's front. John knocks Perkins unconscious and leaves her with fellow assassin Harry (Clarke Peters) to await punishment. However, Perkins frees herself and kills Harry.
John travels to the Little Russia church which serves as Viggo's front and destroys Viggo's cache of money and blackmail material. When Viggo and his team arrive, John ambushes them, but he is subsequently captured. Viggo taunts John for thinking he could leave his old life behind. Marcus intervenes, allowing John to free himself and accost Viggo. At gunpoint, John forces Viggo to reveal Iosef's location. John then travels to Iosef's "safe house" and kills him.
Perkins sees that John and Marcus have been in contact and tells Viggo, who has Marcus tortured and killed in his home. Viggo calls John to report the killing, planning to have Perkins ambush John. Perkins, however, is called to a meeting with Winston, who has her executed for breaking the Continental's rules.
Winston calls John to inform him that Viggo is planning to escape by helicopter, and John races to the harbor, killing Viggo's remaining henchmen before engaging Viggo in a fistfight on the dock. Viggo pulls a knife and John allows himself to be stabbed, stunning Viggo. John then disarms and fatally wounds Viggo. Wounded himself, John stops at a waterfront animal clinic to treat his wound and takes with him a pitbull puppy which was scheduled to be euthanized. John and the dog walk home on the boardwalk where he had his last date with Helen.Keanu Reeves as John Wick
An ex-hitman who returns to the criminal underworld following the death of his wife and a run in with a Russian Crime Syndicate. On accepting the role of Wick, Reeves explained, "Basil and Peter Lawson of Thunder Road brought the script to me with the idea that I would be a part of such a great collaboration. We all agreed on the potential of the project. I love the role, but you want the whole story, the whole ensemble to come to life." On the character of John Wick, Reeves stated, "When we first see him, he’s a guy grieving for his lost wife. But it turns out he has lived lives in two worlds: one in which he’s a happily married man and one in which he’s an assassin. He has tried to bury his past, but without his wife, he is lost." Reeves also compared Wick's story to "[…] a kind of Old Testament revenge story" adding that, "When someone takes the things he cherishes, violence erupts and John can’t temper it." In the original script, the character of John Wick was written with "a man in his mid-sixties" to play the role, given the title character’s fabled reputation, ergo, the filmmakers had initially imagined an older actor. However, head of Thunder Road Pictures Basil Iwanyk decided against this, stating, "Instead, we decided to look for someone who is not literally older, but who has a seasoned history in the film world." Both Stahelski and Leitch were adamant that Reeves wouldn't learn any martial arts which he'd learnt before; for the role, Reeves spent four months learning Judo, jujutsu, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu from "some of the toughest guys" both Stahelski and Leitch have encountered, which included their "LA SWAT and Navy SEAL friends". Stahelski spoke of developing a new style of close-quarter combat for Reeves to utilise practical grappling martial art forms combined with guns. The name John Wick is a name Kolstad had used as a reference to his grandfather, the founder of Wick Building Systems. Wick stated, "I was tickled by Derek using my name for a movie, and the hit man character was frosting on the cake." The character was written with Paul Newman in mind. Reeves was paid a reported $1–2 million salary for his role.
Michael Nyqvist as Viggo Tarasov
The head of the Tarasov family and an enterprising businessman with questionable roots. On taking the role of Viggo, Nyqvist mentioned, "I found the relationship between John and Viggo to be interesting. Viggo has always liked John because he was brilliant at his job. They have the kind of love and respect you might see between a father and son, but it breaks down when John comes for Iosef." Stahelski stated that the role of Viggo had been decided after a great many meetings due to the importance and complexity of the character, and that Nyqvist brought both odd and interesting qualities to the character, also adding that "[Nyqvist's] quirkiness is a good match for Keanu’s stoicism." The filmmakers were most determined to attempt bypassing the stereotypical Russian mobster characterization. Iwanyk stated that Viggo needed to be played by someone who would be "believable as this ultra-bad guy, but was still very, very charming." adding that, "[Nyqvist] brought the character a kind of humanity." For the role of Viggo, Nyqvist was given a style of fighting based on the Russian martial art of Sambo to which he started training in Stockholm, Sweden at the request of Stahelski and Leitch, as he stated, "I did this Russian style of jiu-jitsu called Sambo a lot. I did Brazilian jiu-jitsu and boxing a lot. […] to get closer to the character. […] the guys I worked with, back home in Stockholm, were Russians, so [I] got closer to them. It was a little bit like [method acting]." Of Viggo's background, Kolstad revealed, "A street brawler raised in the slums of Kiev, Viggo has worked his way up the underworld food chain. Now, he is in the process of transitioning to respectability." Director Stahelski stated of Nyqvist, "[Michael], he is not your stereotypical Russian bad guy. He is a quirky guy, how he gives his reads." David Leitch stated, "We had great performances and input from Michael Nyqvist who played it straight and he was excellent. He was a quirky villain. And we took time with the script and found those humorous moments and made sure we paced them correctly with the ultra-violence."
Alfie Allen as Iosef Tarasov
The arrogant, entitled and foolish son of Viggo Tarasov. Allen found it "invigorating" to play a Russian villain and shoot outside of Game of Thrones'
s Belfast set, and on accepting the role of Iosef, he was attracted by the idea of speaking with a different accent, i.e. the New York accent, as well as citing both Stahelski and Leitch's involvement as an incentive for drawing him to the piece. While in New York City, Allen visited Russian public baths to develop and hone the Russian accent which he developed for the film. And speaking in terms of inspiration drawn on for Iosef, Allen stated, "I guess, I found the relationship between [my character] and his father, and there was a back story about the mother that I found quite interesting." He also added that he faced challenges involving learning the Russian language, remarking: "learning the Russian was pretty tough". On the character of Iosef, Kolstad described him as, "a dinner-theater version of his father. Iosef is a rich kid who imagines himself a tough guy; but without his father’s muscle, he’s a punk. In his mind, he has the scars of battle. But the reality is he's one spoiled kid." Kolstad also spoke of Allen's admiration for his to-be colleagues, which charmed the writer, stating as follows, "When we had the first cast-and-crew dinner, I was talking with Alfie and suddenly he just froze. He just said, 'Oh my God! It's Willem Dafoe.' He's a great actor, but he's also a fan like everybody else." Allen spoke of his fellow actor Reeves with both respect and praise, stating, "He's amazing. He's such a great guy. He's a very giving, generous actor as well and just kind of relaxes you on set. If you're nervous, he just kind of chills you out. You know I didn't know that he was a director before I started this. He's made a documentary about encouraging people to make films. I think that's fantastic." Asked on what he hopes the audience take away from the film, Allen said, "It's kind of a crazy love story in there somewhere. It’s not like any other love story I've seen. I think the theme […], is that, all men can change. And who is the bad guy in it, really?"
Adrianne Palicki as Ms. Perkins
A distinguished female contract killer in the world of assassins, and a former acquaintance of John. About the character of Ms. Perkins, Palicki said, "Ms. Perkins is what you think the quintessential assassin would be. She’s cold, heartless, conniving, badass and I think that she has fun with what she does. She enjoys it. I think that she’d clearly do it for a dollar. Ultimately in the film she’s doing it for four million, so it's a little different." Originally the character of Perkins was envisioned as a man, but the decision was reversed during a brainstorming session and the desire to create "an authentic female action character." Leitch stated, "You believe this woman could come in and give John Wick a run for his money," so Stahelski, Leitch and Iwanyk changed it and offered the role to Palicki. Palicki spoke most highly of working with Reeves and the inclusion of stunt work on her part, to which she stated, "Chad wanted to make sure I would be willing to do my own stuff in the huge fight sequence that I have with Keanu—and I was all game." Palicki spent months of training learning Judo and Jujutsu. After the film's release Palicki revealed background information, "I also think we talked about a backstory. It's likely [Ms. Perkins and Wick] had a history as well, before his marriage. She may have a personal vendetta as well as the money. I think there's an enjoyment on multiple levels." On what she hopes for with regard to the fan response, "It's a lot of fun. They're going to want to see what happens next. Most importantly, I hope they’re rooting for John Wick the way that I did when I read the script."
Bridget Moynahan as Helen Wick
The beautiful wife of John Wick. On the character of Helen, Leitch stated, "Helen’s the crux of the movie, so to have an actress like Bridget come on board in such an important role was gratifying. She’s got an elegance that is captivating." Leitch spoke very highly of Bridget's acting talents. When cast in the role of John's wife, she decided not to read the screenplay, believing that the limited amount of information would serve the story well. Moynahan stated, "There was a large portion of the story that I didn’t want to be informed about. I didn’t want or need to know that side of John. Helen brought love and light and joy into his life. Knowing the other side of it would make it a different story for me." Iwanyk shared Moynahan's sentiments, adding, "Helen probably thought John had some skeletons in his closet, but it wasn't important. All we know as an audience is that the moment he met her, he became a different person. Love changed him."
Dean Winters as Avi
Viggo's right hand, the second in command, who has been Viggo's lawyer for many years. On the role of Avi, Stahelski stated, "As the part was written, he was just Viggo’s lawyer. But then Dean came in and made it funny and edgy. The scenes between him and Michael Nyqvist are some of my favorites." Winters spoke most highly of his colleagues on set, stating, "I got to work with Willem Dafoe and Keanu Reeves. We’ve got John Leguizamo, Michael Nyqvist and Bridget Moynahan. I mean, it's a really good cast and I got a front-row seat." Additionally Winters praised Stahelski and Leitch's usage of practical sets of reality to action sequences sans the involvement of green screen and special effects, adding, "Their stunt and action experience paid off." Winters also stated, "It was like a front row seat to watching just incredible, incredible filmmaking," adding, "This was just straight up in your face, not computerized, old-school stunts. I really felt like I was in the front row of like a master class."
Ian McShane as Winston
The enigmatic owner of the Continental Hotel. About the character of Winston, McShane said, "Winston is mysterious and enigmatic." He took the role due to his curiosity on the possibilities of the character, as well as his fondness for modern noir films. Writer Kolstad stated, "[Winston] doesn’t say a lot, but when he does, the earth moves. If John and Viggo are the gods of New York, Winston is the titan." On the film itself, McShane added, "The writing, the acting and the visuals all have a mythical quality. And every character has an important part to play in a puzzle that comes together gradually."
John Leguizamo as Aurelio
The proud business owner of Aurelio's Garage, a high-end chop shop. About the character Aurelio, Leguizamo stated, "When a Russian mobster’s son shows up with John Wick’s car, I know there's going to be trouble. I'm going to have a problem either with the Russian mobster or with John Wick, but I’m not going to win either way." Leguizamo believed that the costume design of the character created a big boost, and had a great impression on the actor, with him stating, "Mine is pretty slick, and that adds a lot of character. I’m walking through the set and all of a sudden I start feeling a little cocky, like I’m somebody. It all helps."
Willem Dafoe as Marcus
A member of the old guard of assassins who is battle hardened, reliable and amongst the elite. About the character of Marcus, Dafoe said, "Marcus is an assassin on a very high level. It's clear that he and [John] have a history and he's something of a mentor to him. They’re friends, but it's a friendship that was made in a very dark world." Of Marcus's psychology he also added that, "He seems pragmatic; he seems fatalistic, which you would have to be in that line of work. " Writer Kolstad stated, "Marcus is a father figure. But he’s a father in the sense that he’s the king of the pride. When a new lion takes over a pride, he slaughters all the cubs. Marcus is that guy." On taking the role, Dafoe was very impressed with the "leanness" of Kolstad's original screenplay, to which he stated, "The story is expressed mostly in action. That seemed to work well with Chad and David’s history." He also praised the "enthusiasm, freshness and eagerness" displayed by both Stahelski and Leitch within the filmmaking process. Dafoe too added that the screenplay and overall project caters to his "particularity that makes them feel special" and the character-driven nature within the setting of New York City wasn't "something that I have really experienced" and additionally the chance of working with Reeves. On the style of directors Stahelski and Leitch, Dafoe stated that their "style is reminiscent of John Woo's signature gun fu combat. The action is a real nice mix of martial arts and gunplay – you have the grace of martial arts, but then the bang of the gun." as well adding, "The choreography isn't the same old, same old, or built around set pieces or a gag. It's really integrated into the story. [Stahelski and Leitch], they aren't just stunt people, they're filmmakers."
The cast also includes David Patrick Kelly as a "cleaner" named Charlie, Randall Duk Kim as a doctor with a select clientele, Lance Reddick as Charon, a concierge at The Continental Hotel who always seems to know what the client needs, Munro M. Bonnell as a Russian Orthodox priest who protects the vault where Viggo stores his valuables, Andy as Daisy, Omer Barnea as Gregori and Toby Leonard Moore as Victor, Iosef's friends and bodyguards, Daniel Bernhardt as Kirill, Viggo's henchman; Bridget Regan as Addy, Keith Jardine as Kuzma, Tait Fletcher as Nicholai, Thomas Sadoski as Jimmy, Clarke Peters as Harry, Kevin Nash as a bouncer named Francis at the Red Circle nightclub, Gameela Wright as a delivery woman, Vladislav Koulikov as Pavel, Pat Squire as an elderly woman, Vladimir Troitsky as a team leader, and Scott Tixier (uncredited) as a violinist.
The premise for John Wick was conceived by screenwriter Derek Kolstad who began work on a treatment about a retired contract killer coming out to seek vengeance, entitled Scorn. After one month of work, he had completed the first draft of the screenplay and once he had addressed several issues he pitched the script to various clients, garnering at least three offers. When he first started thinking about writing the script, Kolstad was influenced by film-noir classics and the themes of revenge and the antihero and the occurrences of what may play out if "The worst man in existence found salvation […] When the source of his salvation is ripped from him […] Do the gates of Hades open?" For Kolstad, both Alistair MacLean and Stephen King were influences in the creating of the story of John Wick in terms of characterisation and world-building, stating, "[…] MacLean could build a world, and King could surprise you by what the main character truly was capable of."
On December 3, 2012, it was announced that Thunder Road Pictures had bought the script with discretionary funds, with Kolstad agreeing due to Thunder Road's plan to make the film straight away. When Basil Iwanyk head of Thunder Road Pictures had first read Kolstad's original screenplay, he was immediately drawn to the main character of Wick, stating, "The tone of the script was subversive and really fun." He also admired the emotional weight and action theme of the piece. After Thunder Road had optioned the script, Kolstad spent additional months refurbishing the script with them. In the original script, the character of John Wick was written with "a man in his mid-sixties" to play the role, given the title character’s fabled reputation as a revered and respected assassin. However, Iwanyk was of the belief that this was irrelevant and bent the original vision ever so slightly, stating, "Instead, we decided to look for someone who is not literally older, but who has a seasoned history in the film world."
On May 7, 2013, it was announced that Keanu Reeves began negotiations to star in the piece in April, and was later confirmed as the film's male lead, after Iwanyk and Peter Lawson of Thunder Road showed him the script, to which he thought to be full of potential and further stated, "I love the role, but you want the whole story, the whole ensemble to come to life." Reeves and Kolstad had worked closely together on further developing the screenplay and the story, with the screenwriter stating, "We spent as much time developing the other characters as we did his. [Keanu] recognizes that the strength of the storyline lies in even the smallest details." The title of the film was later changed from Scorn to John Wick, as according to Kolstad, "Keanu liked the name so much, that Reeves kept telling everyone that he was making a film called 'John Wick'", and the producers agreed, changing the title.
During story discussions for John Wick, Reeves contacted Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, who he originally met on the set of The Matrix, to see if they were interested in choreographing or directing the action of the piece. Reeves admired Stahelski and Leitch's work performing, choreographing and coordinating, stating that, "When I got the script... I immediately thought of Chad and Dave for the action design, but I was secretly hoping they'd want to direct it." he then added, "I knew that they would love the genre and I knew that they would love John Wick. And I thought the worlds that get created – the real world and then this underworld – would be attractive to them, and it was." After reading Kolstad's script, Stahelski and Leitch, told Reeves they wanted to tell the story of John Wick, as they both had a desire to get involved with a project as directors. Impressed with Reeves' enthusiasm and the quality of the script, Stahelski and Leitch, told him that they wished to direct the film and later presented him with their version of the story which was based on "[…] the idea of [Wick] as an urban legend, a thriller assassin movie with a realistic vibe and an otherworldly setting." Impressed with their concept, Reeves supported the pair, and Stahelski and Leitch pitched the idea to the studio, who hired them to direct, contrary to their initial request of directing the film's second unit. On 7 May 2013, it was announced that Stahelski and Leitch were to direct the film together as a team, though it was later ruled by the Directors Guild of America that only Stahelski would be given the director credit. Leitch was credited as a producer.
Stahelski acknowledged the challenges in balancing the action with that of both the pace and tone, stating "we're good at doing that for a particular scene when doing action, but here, we had to take a through-line for the entire film." He acknowledged also that action itself should be a collaborative entity with the story, as opposed to being a thing of its own: "If you're clever with the story and clever with the action, they can fuse together." "We don’t see any real separation that the story stops, and then we just wow you with action. If it all fits and weaves together and helps you love the character, that's what we want to do. … Demand more out of your action, as an audience."
It was remarked by Kolstad, once Reeves, Stahelski and Leitch were officially on board, that during the period of January 2013 to September 2013, he was still working on the final drafts of the screenplay and the modifying of it, to which he described in the general sense a rather "relentless process" further stating, "[…] it needs to be in order to get everyone’s vision in check."
On September 12, 2013, Willem Dafoe was confirmed to have been cast in the role of Marcus "[…] a close friend of Wick. He was the one who encouraged Wick to leave the life after his wife dies." On 19 September 2013, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki and Dean Winters were later confirmed to be a part of the film's supporting cast. On 14 October 2013, Bridget Moynahan had joined the cast of Stahelski and Leitch's film in the role of John Wick's wife who, "the beagle puppy, Daisy, was a posthumous gift to John from." On 15 October 2013, Jason Isaacs had joined the cast, portraying David. On 27 November 2013, Daniel Bernhardt was confirmed to have joined the cast of Stahelski and Leitch's John Wick, playing Kirill, "a formal Russian military commander who is Viggo's henchman." Stahelski and Leitch are hoping for more opportunities behind the camera, with Stahelski himself stating, "Our focus has always been to be filmmakers first and department heads second" and "Now we're following our passion and our dream".
Principal photography was confirmed to have begun in New York City, with an expected late 2014 release, with an original shooting schedule meant to have occurred from 25 September to 5 December. On 14 October 2013, shooting began in Mill Neck, New York, with the filming process scheduled to continue in and around New York City and greater New York area.
On August 26, 2013, Lionsgate announced that they were looking for "a high-end glass house with a water view" that was located in Nassau County, additionally with a scene or two being shot in Long Island. On October 6, 2013, filming occurred next door to the Flatiron School, on 11 Broadway. Filming moved to Brooklyn on October 24, with filming occurring on 6th Avenue between Union and Carroll Street, President Street between 6th and 7th Avenues and Carroll Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. Additionally filming later occurred at the St. Francis Xavier Church on 6th Avenue. On October 28, 2013, a scene was shot CITGO gas station, 501 N. Highland Ave in Upper Nyack, whilst also shooting footage at Route 9W and Christian Herald Road.
On November 1, 2013, filming took place in lower Manhattan at 1 Wall Street Court, was used for the exterior of The Continental hotel. On November 12, 2013, some scenes were shot on 25 Broadway, and in downtown Manhattan on Beaver Street by Broad Street. Filming also took place at W 43rd Street and 8th Avenue, on November 13, in Manhattan, and club scenes for John Wick have been filmed on W 27 Street, with November 15 being the last night schedule at the location. On November 21, 2013, it was announced that a bath house scene was scheduled to be filmed on November 24, December 4 and December 5. Other shooting locations included Tribeca, on November 20, which a chase scene was filmed on Church Street. It was also reported, on November 27, that filming had been set up on E 83rd and 3rd Street on the Upper East Side.
On December 2, 2013, a three-week Upper East Side shoot was scheduled until December 22, with Keanu Reeves and Willem Dafoe filming several scenes. Filming continued to shoot in Tribeca from December 3 to December 5, with the notification placed on Church and Franklin. After the Tribeca shoot, the crew moved to Long Island on December 6 to film a funeral scene, and the shoot will be exterior. Additional filming was reported on December 13 for Chambers Street, Worth Street and Lafayette Street. On December 19, Reeves was filming in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Principal photography was confirmed to have ended on December 20, 2013, with post-production beginning on January 10, 2014.
According to directors commentary, their first cut of the movie was 2 hours and 20 minutes long. They didn't reveal much about approximately 39 minutes of footage that was cut out of the movie but they did mentioned that ending fight between John and Viggo was longer but was cut down after they both acknowledged that Viggo shouldn’t really pose a big physical threat to Wick. Also, David Leitch said how "There’s a ton of great shots on the cutting room floor that’s just Keanu walking in cool environments."
The film was shot digitally with Arri Alexa XT in a distributed aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Cinematographer Jonathan Sela himself chose to work with Arri Alexa XT cameras due to discussions regarding the look of the film John Wick, thus he pushed for a mix of ARRICAM and ALEXA which allowed, in turn, the blend of film and digital. "Everybody loved the idea but when you run the numbers of having two packages and also the cost of film, it gets too expensive, so we decided to work entirely with the ALEXA. It's the camera I've used on commercials so I knew I was comfortable with the ALEXA and I knew I liked it." Sela spoke of the idea that Stahelski, Leitch and himself wished to achieve a visual contrast between John Wick's normal life and the other of which he's drawn back into the underworld of assassins. "We wanted the first look to be soft and clean, and the second to be grittier, darker and sharper. For cost reasons we were shooting with just the one camera format, so I used different lenses and contrasting camerawork to create these two distinct looks." He describes the first section of the film as being far more static by stating that, "the camera never stops moving". For John Wick he had decided on using both anamorphic and spherical lenses, to which he combined a set of Hawk V-Lite Vintage '74 anamorphics with that of Cooke S4 sphericals. The initial plan was to use the anamorphic and spherical lenses in the first and second parts, respectively, to create the visual contrast, however, he decided against such a course of action, as he stated, "[…] once we were shooting we felt that the camerawork was enough to separate those two worlds and we ended up using the anamorphics mainly for day work and the sphericals for night work." Sela praised Hawk's Vintage '74 as "beautiful", however, highlighting that they flare considerably which would have become overbearing during night-time shooting. Equally, Sela added, "In daylight they gave us a hazy look and reduced the contrast, which helped make the day scenes seem much more cinematic to me."
According to Sela, on-board ARRIRAW recording with the ALEXA XT cameras made a considerable difference with camerawork, stating, "Having the ALEXA XT with in-camera ARRIRAW is like going to back to an ARRICAM or an ARRIFLEX 435, which is amazing." There was a considerable amount of handheld camera work on the second section of John Wick and usage of the ALEXA M allowed filming "to squeeze through the window or into restricted spaces" to occur, especially for the car scenes. Sela was recording ARRIRAW and used the whole sensor area of ALEXA's 4:3 for the anamorphic scenes, which allowed for the maximisation of the image quality for a 4K cinema release. Of such a decision the following was stated, "Shooting in ARRIRAW and having that extra sensor area helps most when you need to manipulate the image; you'll notice it when you have to adjust the color or contrast in a scene because you simply have more information to work with."
Costume designer Luca Mosca explained that Wick had to possess a piece of attire that had to be worn throughout almost the entire production of the film, to which he then added, "Then we had to tailor it perfectly and make it sleek and timeless enough to fit into this perfect world." Due to the nature of the world Stahelski and Leitch created, Luca had to create a statement for every character based on their costume. Reeves remarked praise for the costume designer, to which he highlighted Luca's ability to give the pieces of clothing meaning, if only subtle; "All the different shades of black that Luca used gave it a lot of overtones. It's funeral and it's priestly. It's also very chic, but it doesn't call attention to itself. When I put on the suit, it definitely affects me." Initially the idea was to place the villains of the piece in combat gear, but later they decided against that due to the principle that they have to be placed in suits, with Leitch quoting Luca, "It is about men in suits."
John Wick features not two worlds, but instead "two of everything", states production designer Dan Leigh on the contrast of the worlds, speaking in jest. Leigh too added, "I approached the story as more of a fable, which ties into the graphic-novel idea. The visual manifestation of that is something that transcends reality. The light is a little bit different. There’s texture in the air. There are unexpected objects everywhere."
James Bolt and Martyn Zub were the re-recording mixers. Mark Stoeckinger was the supervising sound editor.
Production sound mixer Danny Michael had used Sound Devices' 788T-SSD Digital Recorder and CL-WiFi as sound devices, additionally with a Lectrosonics VRT-Venue System, Lectrosonics radio mics, Schoeps CMC-6U and CMIT-5U microphones, a Cooper Sound 208 mixer, Blackmagic dual seven-inch monitors and a Denecke Dcode GR-1 as the main time clock for John Wick. Due to John Wick being an action-oriented piece, it required a lot of sound effects, as well as "file-based workflow".
For Michael, the 788T-SSD's ability to swap out removable storage was an advantage, due to himself simply supplying his CompactFlash to the post-production company Light Iron, in order for them to process the raw unedited footage on the set. Michael stated, "I was basically handing over my sound every time a camera roll changed, to a person who was literally five feet away from me" adding that, "They then took my material and synced it with what was coming off the cameras, on the spot. We would rotate CF cards throughout the course of the day."
Jake Braver was the overall Visual Effects Supervisor and visual effects company Spin VFX worked on most of the visual effects on John Wick.
The musical score to John Wick was composed by Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard, with on-screen violin music performed by Scott Tixier. The film also features a few pieces of additional music such as Marilyn Manson's "Killing Strangers" and T-Bo and Bengie B's "Get Money". The original soundtrack album, John Wick: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, was released digitally on October 21 and received a physical format release on October 27 by Varese Sarabande Records. In addition to Bates and Richard's score, the album features music by artists such as Ciscandra Nostalghia, The Candy Shop Boys, and M86 & Susie Q. Le Castle Vania also provided additional music for the score.
Director Chad Stahelski said influences on John Wick included; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Point Blank (1967), Le Cercle Rouge (1970), and The Killer (1989).
Stahelski said about The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, "Look at Clint Eastwood in [the film] – there is so much back-story unsaid there. We're big fans of leaving it to your imagination. We just give you some gold coins, and then it's, "Where do the gold coins come from?" We'll get to that. Have your imagination do some work there." He also said Point Blank (1967) influenced John Wick: "One of the biggest inspirations for the film was Point Blank. We watched it on a loop in our office and there are a couple homages to that [in John Wick]." Park Chan-wook's The Vengeance Trilogy (2002–2005) and Lee Jeong-beom's The Man from Nowhere (2010) influenced the film due to "[their] minimalist composition and graphic nature."
For screenwriter Derek Kolstad, both Alistair MacLean and Stephen King were huge influences in the creation of the story of John Wick in terms of characterisation and world-building, stating, with himself stating, "MacLean could build a world, and King could surprise you by what the main character truly was capable of." Outside of films, Stahelski and Leitch drew inspiration from the visual stylings of the '60s and '70s as well as cinematic influences, including Sergio Leone, Akira Kurosawa, Steve McQueen, Lee Marvin, William Friedkin and Sam Peckinpah. With Stahelski himself stating, "All the way back to Kurosawa up to Sergio Leone. We like the spaghetti western sensibility there, some of the composition." Albeit inspiration and emulation from the noir film genre, Stahelski too added that, "Noir maybe was sort of less impactful for us than the other sort of westerns and Kurosawa and things like that. I think we wanted to make this hard-boiled character."
The official website for John Wick debuted on August 15, 2014 introducing a marketing campaign and interactive layout to promote the film. The website streamed an audio file as well as containing interactive games such as "The Red Club Club" and "Revenge Ride". Lionsgate also provided information on the cast and crew as well as a gallery and video section. The first images debuted on August 21, 2014 featuring Reeves' as Wick. With the release Liongate confirmed the film being set for a "sudden release" on October 24, 2014. On September 10, 2014, the teaser poster was released as well as the confirmation date of the expected teaser trailer. The teaser trailer for John Wick debuted September 12, 2014. The theatrical release poster and the final theatrical trailer were both released on September 30, 2014, by both Stahelski and Leitch on an 'Ask me anything' Reddit session.
Lionsgate had provided Collider.com and Moviepilot, on October 2, 2014, with a prize pack to give away to various readers, which included Assassin's Creed Unity, a Fandango gift card for $25, a Lionsgate DVD 3-pack with Dredd, Gamer, and Rambo, and a John Wick poster and T-shirt. On October 6, 2014, the official website for John Wick had been updated to include three trailers, photographs with John's story as well as individual cast photos and mini-biographies. The IMAX TV spot trailer for John Wick debuted October 6, 2014, featuring new footage of the film. Carl F. Bucherer was the official partner of the John Wick premiere in New York City on October 13, 2014. Keanu Reeves sported a Manero AutoDate with a light dial, Willem Dafoe wore a Manero AutoDate in classic black, and Daniel Bernhardt with a Patravi ChronoGrade. An IMAX Featurette was released on October 22, 2014 featuring clips relating to the film, accompanied by statements by Reeves, Stahelski, and Leitch.
On October 16, 2014, John Wick was featured on the week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly.
As part of a cross-promotion deal with Overkill Software, Lionsgate and Thunder Road Pictures, on October 21, 2014, John Wick was added as a playable character in the online game Payday 2, and other elements from the film, including Wick's signature weapons, and skill tree that allowed for dual-wielding of certain firearms. Additionally, Fandango offered people who purchase tickets online at select theaters a free download of Payday 2 through Steam. Variety described Liongate's deal as a "pretty imaginative marketing move". Danielle DePalma, Lionsgate's EVP of Digital Marketing, stated, "We're big fans of Payday 2 and the team at Starbreeze, and we're thrilled to kick off our partnership with such a cool movie" and Bo Andersson Klint, Starbreeze CEO, stated, "We've finally got a real hitman on our team. Being able to play as John Wick in Payday 2 ahead of the movie's release is a great reward for our loyal Payday 2 community."
John Wick premiered at the Regal Union Square Theatre, Stadium 14 on October 13, 2014 in New York City, after screening at the Austin Fantastic Fest on September 19, where it opened the official sidebar section, Special Gala Screening, to an astounding reception, and the ArcLight Hollywood in Los Angeles on October 22, 2014. John Wick will have its television premiere on USA (Channel) on March 12th, 2017.
Prior to John Wick's public release, an advance screening of the film was shown on October 9, 2014 at Regal Oakwood in Hollywood, Florida. A screening was shown in advance at the UA Court Street in Brooklyn, New York on October 14. Glendale Designs sponsored a private screening on October 16, 2014 at Harkins Arrowhead in Peoria, Arizona. BackstageOL and Lionsgate hosted an advance screening on October 21, 2014 at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium in Houston, Texas and at the Santikos Embassy 14 in San Antonio, Texas. Additionally, Lionsgate had announced 40 additional advanced screening's at selected theatres in the United States from October 21 to October 22., as part of a national campaign to promote John Wick. Entertainment One Films held advance screenings in Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver between October 20 and October 23.
John Wick began a wide theatrical release in the United States on October 24, 2014, expanding in successive weeks to France, Australia and Netherlands, ahead of a bow in the United Kingdom on February 2, 2015 after expanding throughout Europe.
On May 22, 2013, Liongate had sold more than $250 million in territorial rights to nine titles at the Cannes Film Festival, including John Wick. Studio Canal will distribute the piece throughout Germany, Metropolitan Filmexport acquired the French distribution rights to John Wick from Lionsgate, Acme Film acquired the distribution rights throughout the Baltic region, Monolith Films acquired the film rights in Poland, Imagem had acquired the Latin American distribution rights, Orange Sky Golden Harvest obtained the film rights in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and Media Pro acquired the rights in the regions of Czech, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. Entertainment One Films picked up the Canadian distribution rights. On 10 June 2014, Belga Films had acquired the rights to distribute the film within the Benelux region. On 2 July 2014, MK2 Pictures were confirmed to have acquired the Italian distribution rights to John Wick. On 8 May 2014, the Huayi Brothers picked up the Chinese distribution rights to John Wick, being one of only four films in the United States that were picked up, with a planned 2015 limited theatrical release. On 11 August 2014, Lions Gate Entertainment acquired from Thunder Road Pictures the distribution rights to John Wick in the United States, with a planned 2014 limited theatrical release, and in October, Summit Entertainment, a Lionsgate company, distributed the film in the United States On 31 October 2014, it was announced that Warner Bros. Pictures would be distributing the film within the United Kingdom. It was later announced that the release date in the United Kingdom was moved back from the first weekend of 2015 to 10 April 2015.
On October 2, 2014, Summit Entertainment announced that John Wick would be released in IMAX. Phil Groves, Senior Vice President of IMAX Corp and Executive Vice President of Global Distribution, IMAX Entertainment, stated, "John Wick is a fun action romp, complete with a tremendously entertaining performance by Keanu Reeves that is perfect for IMAX fans." further adding, "There's no better place for audiences to experience the film's stylized storytelling than in IMAX theatres."
John Wick earned $14.4 million from 2,589 locations on its opening weekend, compared to the $7–8 million opening most analysts projected the film would make. By the end of its theatrical run, John Wick grossed $45.7 million in North America and $43 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $88.8 million, against a production budget of $20 million.
The film had a wide release in the United States and Canada in selected theatres on October 24. The film earned $5.45 million on its opening day, including $875,000 from Thursday night previews, which was the second highest opening of that weekend, at an average of $5,465 per theater. The film grossed $2.5 million from 347 IMAX locations that weekend, which represented 17.7 percent of the film's overall gross for its opening weekend. The audience was 60% male and 77% were older than 25.
Outside North America, the film took $1.4 million during its international opening weekend. The film's highest-grossing debuts were in France, Australia, Thailand, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates. On its second week, it added $6.7 million from 33 territories. The film went number one in France ($1.2 million) from 300 screens, number three in Australia ($961,000) from 177 screens, and number ten in the Middle East ($1 million) from a total of 80 screens.
John Wick received generally positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 85% based on 188 reviews, with an average rating of 6.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Stylish, thrilling, and giddily kinetic, John Wick serves as a satisfying return to action for Keanu Reeves – and what looks like it could be the first of a franchise." Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 68 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". CinemaScore reported that audiences gave the film a "B" grade, on an A+ to F scale.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone praised the piece by stating, "John Wick is the kind of fired-up, ferocious B-movie fun some of us can't get enough of" and praising the "juicy performances" from Dafoe, Leguizamo, and McShane. Richard Corliss of Time magazine wrote, "Action movies are about movement, and John Wick pursues that goal with remorseless verve." Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club gave the film an "B+" rating, stating, "An underworld fantasy that grafts crisp action on to Rian Johnson-esque world-building, producing one of the more fully realized shoot-'em-up flicks in recent memory." He continued by praising the script of Kolstad, citing that it "distinguishes itself by carefully defining the boundaries of its universe". Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an "A-" rating and called Kolstad's screenplay, "a marvelously rich and stylish feat of pulpy world-building."
Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter granted the film praise, "After a marked absence from the genre, Reeves resoundingly returns with an effortless, kinetic style that positions the film extremely well for any potential follow-ups." Peter Debruge of Variety spoke highly of the film, "Back in action-hero mode, Keanu Reeves joins forces with his Matrix stunt double to deliver a slick and satisfying revenge thriller" and described "what a thrill well-choreographed action can be when we're actually able to make out what's happening". Stephanie Zacharek of The Village Voice said that, "Reeves is wonderful here, a marvel of physicality and stern determination – he moves with the grace of an old-school swashbuckler." Bilge Ebiri of Vulture commented, "It's a beautiful coffee-table action movie."
Jeannette Catsoulis wrote, in her review for The New York Times, "Harbouring few ambitions beyond knock-your-socks-off action sequences, this crafty revenge thriller delivers with so much style – and even some wit – that the lack of substance takes longer than it should to become problematic." Catsoulis praised Dafoe and Leguizamo as "bringing real subtlety to an all-too-brief scene" and Nyqvist as "marvellous", as well as Stahelski's direction and Sela's cinematography. Forrest Wickman of Slate noted, "John Wick offers a slow burn, sizzling in a manner true to its hero’s surname." Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian scored the film four out of five stars, writing, "A slick, propulsive and ridiculous crime picture that strides like an automatic machine gun."
Peter Bradshaw, also reviewing for The Guardian, gave the film 2 out of 5 stars and stated "... Reeves's semi-deliberate zonked deadpan style only really works in juxtaposition with funny dialogue – and this is a pretty humourless and violent film, which grinds on and on with more and more gleaming black SUVs getting trashed." Ealasaid Haas of San Jose Mercury News described John Wick as a "disappointingly standard revenge movie." John Semley of The Globe and Mail called the title "the new name in crummy action cinema," giving it one-half out of 4 stars.
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 will be headed by Grab Games, with Starbreeze set to publish. WEVR will develop an introductory experience for the game. The game was released on February 9th, 2017 with the name John Wick Chronicles. and have a standalone narrative based on the Continental Hotel. Additionally, John Wick content – a free Character Pack and a chargeable Weapons Pack – was released for the Payday 2 games on October 20, 2016 as cross-promotion.
A sequel was released on February 10, 2017, and at the 2016 CinemaCon, Reeves hinted that more sequels had been planned.