This story contains minor spoilers for John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, but nothing that gives away essential plot points.
In describing my love of the John Wick franchise, I often go out of my way to explain that these movies aren't great just because of their super-cool fight sequences. I mean, they do have super-cool fight sequences, in which Keanu Reeves, seemingly limber as ever at 54, performs a balletic dance of violence, taking out legions of bad guys without blinking. But the reason the John Wicks have captured my heart is the lore. In the first installment, what starts out as a simple story about a widower taking revenge on the jerks who stole his car and killed his adorable puppy is also an introduction into a parallel universe version of New York where assassins have a safe-space hotel, a set of Byzantine codes, and their own monetary system comprised of ornate coins. As each progressive sequel arrives in theaters, audiences learn more about this deadly, wondrously ludicrous universe.
When the latest film, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, opens, John is excommunicado, having killed a member of the nefarious assassin leadership committee, the High Table, on the grounds of the Continental Hotel, which is a big no-no. There's a $14 million bounty on his head, and basically the entire city of New York wants a shot at him. Naturally, he takes many shots at them in return. In order to save his hide, John pulls out all the favors he's saved up. He brings a cross to a grand theater where he meets up with Anjelica Huston's The Director, a Ruska Roma woman who runs what appears to be a training school for assassins, which includes strict ballet and wrestling programs. From there, he gets passage to Morocco, where an old friend, Sofia (Halle Berry), awaits. She runs the Casablanca version of The Continental and also is indebted to John. Eventually he walks through the desert (in his suit, of course) to meet up with the head of the High Table, called The Elder, in the middle of nowhere. There's all a lot to keep track of, but according to writer Derek Kolstad, the Wick innovation is freeform. "Even during the second one there was talk about maybe building out a bible, but I think we all love the challenge of writing the story on the fly," he says.
But just how did the saga of this one sad man get so amazingly weird? I spoke to director Chad Stahelski and Kolstad to get further insight on the coins, the High Table, and dog assassins.