Courtesy of Lionsgate
Having now gone through the first three John Wick entries, the gripping events that took place in the first movie feel so far away and even displaced. Even though the 2014 release featured Iosef Tarasov, the unchained villain who unknowingly set our antihero on a warpath, the arc of the character is forgettable compared to other personas who were introduced later on in the three part saga. Mrs. Perkins was another promising antagonist who turned out to be nothing but a flash in the pan. Even William Dafoe’s Marcus, who turned out to be Mr. Wick’s savior more than once, was conclusively used to show the ruthlessness of the movie’s main antagonist, a high ranking Russian mobster named Viggo Tarasov.
Only after beginning John Wick 3: Parabellum and watching the opening credits flash across the screen, did I actually realize why there were numerous characters from the earliest film that seemed to mistakenly under-deliver on potential. In between the words that splashed on the screen and told me all about the various names involved with this project, a Catholic cross made itself known and slowly floated around some familiar bullets, coins and markers. This invaluable emblem was to be a creative catalyst. The John Wick universe was about to take on a new shape for me and the characters that were previously sacrificed only strengthened the evolved but yet misunderstood symbolic nature of the two sides within the franchise.
Just like all the major biblical figures who unwaveringly lived by the principles set forth in Moses’ Ten Commandments, another set of integral guidelines seem to exist in John Wick’s underground world that all assassins must play by whether morally grounded or not. Referenced within the dialogue of all three movies, these instructions are cryptically only known as the rules and consequences.
Before the events that take place in the first entry, John’s wife dies not from the hands of a killer but from the grasp of an undisclosed illness. This all too familiar situation for many of us is, ironically, the inciting incident that pulls the audience away from the real world and throws them straight through the looking glass. Once in this unfamiliar wonderland of sophisticated killers, we are formally introduced to their version of God.
With John Wick wandering the desert and eventually collapsing from the extreme heat, he wakes to find himself face to face with the Elder. A mystical man who sets himself apart from all the other usually tight fitted, suit wearing characters in this series of movies by peculiarly surrounding himself instead with traditional colors and patterns found in that region of the world. This man is, in fact, the one who rules the high table and this same individual probably had a great deal in constructing the rules and consequences that the High Table and all of its descendants hold near and dear.
This parallel between the upheld harmony of fictional hitmen and the order of the church ultimately breaks synchronicity because John Wick’s undying connection with his deceased wife is squeezed by the overbearing duality of these two ideals. As the High Table Adjudicator says to Winston during his trial by fire, rules are the only things separating us from animals. By that point though, seeds of disorder had already been planted on the side of the contract killers.
In the first John Wick movie, the ill-fated Mrs. Perkins had decided that it was in her best interest to actually conduct business on Continental grounds by attacking Mr. Wick and later on, killing a fellow hitman who went by the name of Henry. During the climax of the last movie, John Wick himself executes Santino D’Antonio right in the lounge of the New York City based Continental hotel. To start off chapter three, a lone executioner that is the size of a giant throws caution to the wind and goes after John Wick even before his excommunicado formally begins.
This chaos comes full circle when the Adjudicator, Winston and John Wick all meet. With the two players not giving into the demands set forth in front of them, the cold blooded mediator takes advantage of the authority that she wields and actually bends these so-called rules and consequences in her favor. The Adjudicator takes away the official recognizance of the Continental as a sanctum so she can send enforcers into the hotel to get rid of both Wick and Winston. This act is the most haunting to me.
To see this kind of wicked control coming from the Elder’s forces shows that this kingdom is not as sacred as it appears to be. Before John Wick began on his path of no return, The High Table had successfully trained their ranks to abide by rules and consequences. But with arguably their best agent betraying them in order to not taint the memory of his beloved, the secret society have trashed their twisted version of the Bible’s most holiest of verses with no consequences. They will do whatever it takes to always have their children remain loyal.
With Parabellum initially beginning with a beaten down John Wick giving in to his defeat and then ending with the same character actually finding a renewed sense of worth, this sounds awfully familiar to a name that a lot of us have forgotten about with time. All I have to say is that I’m excited to see what’s next.