What Happens In ‘John Wick’ 1 & 2? This Guide Will Get You Caught Up In Time For ‘Parabellum’
What to call fans of hyperbolic assassin's tale John Wick. Wickheads? Wickans? Wickermen? Whatever the preferred term, they're out there in droves and have been since the moment Sad Keanu morphed into Extremely Mad Keanu in the first John Wick film in 2014, going from mopey to determinately murderous in the span of two minutes and remaining so for the full runtime of not one, but two films. (The second premiered in 2017.) If you missed out you need to know what happens in John Wick 1 and 2, this quick guide should get you all caught up for the mayhem of Parabellum before it hits theaters on May 17.
While the first Wick set up the slenderest of skeletons on which to drape lovingly choreographed ultraviolence — a legendary hitman out of the game gets yanked back in when a smug Russian mob son kills the dog his wife left him — the second movie elaborates on the assassins' underworld lightly established in the beginning. The Continental, the Sommelier, the High Table, Markers... as John tries to meet his obligation, the lore and world around him's built up and expanded, culminating in a full-on worldwide hit. One man against the Russian mob becomes one man (and his adoring dog) against the entire world as the film ends with a global hit announced on Wick, who begins running. And that's exactly where Parabellum (Latin for "prepare for war", as Keanu himself explained to Coming Soon) picks up — with Round 2 of Wick fighting off every assassin gunning for the immense bounty out on him. Here's how we got there:
John Wick's Wife Dies, But Leaves Him An Adorable Substitute
Helen, beloved wife of John Wick, passes away from a terminal illness. She knew he'd be inconsolable and set up a small token of her love delivered post-mortem: adorable puppy Daisy. Thanks to Helen's thoughtfulness and the pure, unconditional love of dogs, John slowly comes out of his depression... don't get too attached to Daisy, though.
An Impossible Jersey Gas Station Sets Up Trouble
Let me state the obvious: you cannot pump your own gas in Jersey. It nearly ruined the movie for me that they built the scene up around gas-pumpage in one of two states that won't let you pump. New York was right there, guys.
Anyway. While "pumping gas," Wick's slick ride catches the attention of hotshot Russian mafia scion Iosef (Alfie Allen). He wants that car, and when Wick refuses to sell it, Iosef and his goons decide they're going to take it.
The Final Straw
Iosef and Co. break into John's house, destroying everything, including sweet Daisy. They steal the car and blaze off, not realizing what they've set in motion. See, John's no ordinary brooding and mysteriously wealthy man.
Iosef Gets A History Lesson
Taking the car to one of his dad's chop shops, Iosef gets a beating. He goes to whine to his dad, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), head of a Russian crime syndicate, and gets a bigger beating. Turns out John Wick is a super-assassin, who got out of the game to marry Helen by completing an impossible job Viggo set up for him to fail. John's success is what set Viggo up as the crime boss he is today, and now Iosef's put everyone in an impossible position.
Viggo Reaches Out To John
He tries reason, bribery, and even assassins, but John turns them all down (or in the latter case ices them all and gets a cleanup crew in). Looks like it's an all-out war.
Welcome To The Continental
John heads to The Continental, one of several safe spaces where assassins can recuperate without fear of reprisal. (No one is allowed to kill on Continental grounds.) Information trading is fine though, and John finds out where Iosef's being kept.
Russian Bath Massacre
Half the reason people love these movies is their sheer audacity, so simply saying "Wick goes to the Russian Club/Spa but just misses Iosef" doesn't do justice to the sprawling gun-fu taking place across three different rooms.
Breaking The Rules
Recuperating back at the Continental, John's almost assassinated by Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), a young lady contract killer with a seeming grudge. Thanks to a heads-up from his mentor Marcus (Willem Dafoe), he gets away with information about Viggo's main base of operations.
Burn It All Down
John destroys Viggo's stockpiles and after avoiding a trap with Marcus' help, finds out from Viggo himself where his own son's hiding. Wick ices Iosef.
It all comes down to a brawl between Viggo and John on the dock. John's ultimately victorious but injured, and breaks into an animal clinic to treat himself. The film ends with him taking a pit bull pup scheduled to be euthanized and walking off into the day.
FOUR DAYS LATER: 'JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2'
Seriously. The movie picks up just four days after the bonkers incidents of the previous film, with Wick tying things up with the remaining Tarasovs and getting his car back.
Another Assignment & More Assassin Lore
Wick's approached by Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), an Italian crime head who John asks for help with his "impossible task." In return for his help, D'Antonio gets a Marker, a literal token of sworn oath that binds the giver to do whatever's asked of them. "Every Marker Must Be Honored" is as firm an underworld rule as "No Killing On Continental Grounds," both of which come into play this go-round.
The Assignment: Italy
Santino wants John to kill his sister (Claudia Gerini) so he can take over their crime operations. At her official coronation, John confronts her in the dressing room and fulfills his obligation, only to realize he was set up to take the fall.
Gunning For Wick
The majority of the film's runtime is assassin after hitman after killer going after John to collect on the immense $7 million bounty Santino puts on him to cover his own complicity, including knife-throwing leader Ares (Ruby Rose) Low on plot, high on action!
The Bowery King Reunites Neo & Morpheus
John gets some help from the Bowery King, played by Lawrence Fishburne, the first time he and Reeves were together onscreen since The Matrix trilogy.
Breakin' The Law
After managing to fend off Santino's official hitmen as well as everyone else who comes for him, Wick finally catches up with Santino... in the Continental. Santino says he plans to live the remainder of his life there free of Wick's revenge, but Wick just shoots him in the head. "Whoops." John's declared "excommunicado," cut off from any help the Continental can offer, but as a show of goodwill, owner Winston gives John an hour head-start before the worldwide hit's put out.
And that is exactly where Parabellum will pick up. Stay tuned May 17 for Wick to hit the ground running with more guns, more dogs, and more action.