Keanu Reeves is back in action in John Wick: Chapter 3 as the eponymous contract killer called out of retirement. Now declared excommunicado (a persona non grata in the assassin community) and with a US$14 million bounty on his head, Wick seeks absolution from the High Table, a council of the world’s top crime bosses. Meanwhile, fellow hitman and not-so-secret admirer Zero (Mark Dacascos) and the Adjudicator, a member of the High Table (Asia Kate Dillon), search the underworld to snuff out Wick.

The subtitle of John Wick: Chapter 3 in some countries is Parabellum, which is Latin for “prepare for war”. At one point in this third instalment, a character quotes the adage “Si vis pacem, para bellum”, meaning “If you want peace, prepare for war.” This is also the tagline in the trailer, and a rather apt mantra for Reeves’ dedication to the role. So how does Baba Yaga, or Boogeyman, prepare for war as the unstoppable assassin? Reeves took method acting to a whole new level by getting trained in:

 

1. Firearm handling and tactics

Every assassin worth his Sig Sauer is competent in marksmanship and close-quarter battle tactics. For the first John Wick movie alone, Reeves underwent extensive gun, martial-arts and driving training for “four months, five days a week, eight hours a day“. For the third movie, he trained with former US Navy SEAL and CIA contractor Shawn Ryan on room-clearing techniques and concepts like the “fatal funnel”. (A “fatal funnel” refers to the area in front of and behind a choke point, like a door or window, where you’re likely to be shot at by enemies on the other side). Reeves is a good student – you can see in the clip above that he listens attentively, asks questions and patiently goes through footwork drills.

Wick uses Glock handguns throughout the first two movies. In the third, he acquires an antique Remington 1875 revolver (which he assembles onscreen) and a custom 1911 handgun, the STI 2011 Combat Master designed by Taran Tactical Innovations. The company’s owner, Taran Butler, has a range in Simi Valley, California, where Reeves is a regular. Even his co-star in Chapter 3, Halle Berry, practised some double taps there, which you can see in this compilation video.

 

2. Unarmed combat

Sometimes, Wick runs out of bullets, at which point he’ll have to rely on his fists and feet. Wick’s hybrid fighting style, “gun fu”, is based on Judo as well as Brazilian and Japanese jiu-jitsu. Wick’s modus operandi is to take down his opponent as fast as possible by grapples and throws before going in for the kill.

Whether it’s fighting dirty with groin strikes, using improvised weapons like a pencil, or turning his killers’ weapons against them, Wick is ruthlessly efficient in disposing of his attackers. You can see a breakdown of techniques from these disciplines that Wick executes, like the triangle choke and flying pendulum sweep, in the video above.

In the second movie, the film-makers called in the Machado brothers to train Reeves. The Machado brothers are a family of Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners and founders of international association RCJ Machado Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. One of the brothers, Rigan, had high praise for the actor, saying he had focus and determination and was “very impressive”. For Chapter 3, Reeves said it’s the hardest training he’s done because “there’s a lot more action in Parabellum than in the first two films”. Reeves does “98 per cent of what you see onscreen”, according to producer Erica Lee. Co-star Berry, who also underwent “John Wick training”, said “it’s hard as sh*t”, but “it’s also a lot of fun”.

 

3. Precision driving

 

Whether it’s chasing the mark or evading pursuers, an assassin’s got to go fast. Reeves is no stranger to high-speed vehicular antics (he stepped from a moving car onto a moving bus during the production of Speed), but for the John Wick movies, he takes it to the next level. Wick proved comfortable behind the wheels of his beloved 1969 Ford Mustang and a 2011 Dodge Charger.

Praised as “the best actor-driver in the business” by stunt coordinator Darrin Prescott, Reeves did a lot of the driving stunts in the first two films, like performing a 90-degree slide towards the camera in the Dodge Charger in the first movie and T-boning a baddie’s car with the Mustang. Here’s a pro tip from Prescott after observing Reeves’ good driving form: Don’t wrap your thumbs around the steering wheel before impact – the rapid deceleration will break both of them. Instead, keep your thumbs on the outside of the wheel.

In Chapter 3, Wick is pursued by a fleet of katana-wielding killers on Yamaha MT-09 motorcycles across the Verrazzano Bridge that connects the New York City boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn. This swordfight-on-motorbikes sequence was inspired by a chase scene in the Korean action film The Villainess, which both Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski had seen. Coincidentally, Reeves is a huge gearhead – he collects bikes and co-founded his own motorcycle brand, ARCH Motorcycle. You can see some of his most prized bikes and hear him talk about them and his film experience with two-wheelers in this GQ interview.

 

4. Animal wrangling

An elite executioner needs to use everything – and every creature – at his disposal. Back in 1985, Reeves hosted an episode featuring an equestrian school for CBC-TV youth programme Going Great. Those were simpler times. Two decades later, he rode a horse while shooting a gun down a street in Bensonhurst Brooklyn for Chapter 3‘s opening scene, in which Wick fends off hitmen on motorcycles.

When asked by TV show host Stephen Colbert what was it like to fight on a horse, Reeves quipped, “It’s fun. You could die.” In the same interview, which you can watch above, he briefly describes the safety rig he wears while riding the horse, which you can see here.

Reeves also had to work with dogs – somewhat fitting considering his character came out of retirement because of the death of one. Berry’s character, Sofia, has two Belgian Malinois in flak jackets as her sidekicks. Berry trained with the canines for over six months. In the Colbert interview, Reeves related an anecdote about working with the dogs in Morocco – there were a lot of feral cats around the set and it was “cat chaos” whenever they distracted the pooches. You can see Berry frolicking with her furry assassins on set in the Sahara Desert in this clip and hard “at work” in this segment of the trailer.

 

5. Sartorial elegance

Last, but certainly not least, a professional assassin always dresses in style. Think of all the great fictional contract killers, like Nikita in La Femme Nikita or Agent 47 in the Hitman game and movie series. They have impeccable taste in fashion. Esquire speculated that the sharp suit the sharpshooter wears in Parabellum was made by Luca Mosca, the costume designer from the first two films, and Mosca’s online resume confirms this.

In an interview with The Daily Dot, Mosca said draping a suit on Reeves was an “easy task” with his “elegant and regal posture”. He also mentions the film-makers have an enormous amount of multiples – some are in the actor’s size and some are slightly larger to accommodate knee pads and elbow pads, or gussets in the armpit and crotch of the pants to allow for more movement. They also made copies for the stunt doubles and damaged versions for fight scenes.

In another story by Gentleman’s Journal, he reveals that the suits – despite looking incredibly dark – aren’t actually black. With the exception of the suit worn in the second film’s Rome sequence, Reeves’ threads are in dark shades of grey. Mosca himself cameos in Chapter 2 as Wick’s tailor, which you can see in the clip above. All of Mosca’s tailoring savoir faire must have rubbed off on Reeves – earlier this month, the actor was unveiled as the new face of Saint Laurent.

Keanu Reeves and Halle Berry. Berry worked and played with five Belgian Malinois and five Belgian Shepherds during the production of John Wick 3.

Keanu Reeves and Halle Berry. Berry worked and played with five Belgian Malinois and five Belgian Shepherds during the production of John Wick 3.

Now that you know what it takes to be a killer assassin, it’s time to see whether Wick can survive against the best hitmen in the world in John Wick: Chapter 3. With every cold-blooded murderer out to get him, can Wick live to kill another day? Will his new canine companion, Cha Cha, make it through the carnage? One thing’s for sure: There will be guns. Lots of guns.

Join Wick on what may be his final assignment in John Wick: Chapter 3, which opens in Golden Village cinemas tomorrow on May 16.

Be among the first in Singapore to see how it all goes down for Wick at any of the four GV Movie Club Priority Preview screenings tonight:

Details

Date and time: May 15, 7pm at Gold Class Suntec City, 8.30pm at Gemini Grand, 7.30pm at Duo Deluxe Paya Lebar and 8.30 pm at GV Yishun
Who’s invited: Exclusive to GV Movie Club members (sign up for free here).

A ticket to the Gold Class Suntec City show is $42, while the Gemini Grand one is $42 for two tickets and inclusive of one large popcorn and two regular drinks. A ticket to the Duo Deluxe Paya Lebar show is $24.50 and inclusive of one regular popcorn and drink, while a ticket to the GV Yishun show is $14 and inclusive of one regular popcorn and drink.

The movie is rated M18 for violence. Follow this link to read the terms of this promotion and book your seats for this much-anticipated sequel!

Wick is ready for war. Are you?

Credit: Golden VillageLionsgate Movies, Taran Tactical Innovations, GodzillarexMovieclips, John Machado, Huffington Post, ARCH Motorcycle, GQ, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Hollywood Pipeline, Esquire, The Daily Dot, Gentleman’s Journal, Independent

 

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