The world of Keanu Reeves’s titular hitman is getting a lot bigger.
John Wick: Chapter 3 is shaping up to be the biggest, bloodiest, and most breathtaking installment of the franchise yet. Granted, some aspects of the smash-hit hitman series’ formula won’t be tampered with — director Chad Stahelski will be returning to helm the film, and Keanu Reeves will reprise his role as the formerly retired assassin.
But the addition of a slew of new, vaguely-named cast members, including Oscar-winning actresses Halle Berry as “Sofia” and Angelica Huston as “The Director,” suggests that Chapter 3 will plunge Wick into a more unfamiliar world.
The last time we saw Wick, he was declared “excommunicado” from the criminal underworld and had a $14 million bounty placed on his head after he killed a member of the shadowy crime lord council known as the High Table on the hallowed grounds of the Continental Hotel.
Chapter 3 will open with Wick on the run in New York and presumably unable to rely on anyone but himself. However, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Berry’s Sofia will not be a villain — a detail that suggests she’ll likely become an ally and/or informant to the wanted Wick. An Instagram message from the former Bond girl, printed on the stationery of the Continental Hotel, also hints that Sofia is already rooted in his former world of professional killers.
Huston’s role as The Director, reportedly a member of the High Table, remains a little harder to untangle. The title suggests that she’ll be a powerful and clandestine authority figure in the vein of the James Bond franchise’s M, but whether she’ll be a similarly flinty but ultimately sympathetic figure or a sinister mastermind orchestrating all of Wick’s troubles is still ripe for speculation. Whatever her role is, we’re certain that the indomitable Huston wouldn’t be cast in an action film unless she was slated to be a crucial character.
Asia Kate Dillon of Orange is the New Black and Billions has also been cast, as “The Adjudicator,” likely another member of the High Table who will be an associate of the The Director — possibly a judge of sorts, but still one that’s willing to get their hands dirty.
Another surprising addition to the cast is Jason Mantzoukas as the Tick Tock Man, a role whose name alone already has us intrigued. Mantzoukas is best known for his roles as eccentric goofs in the TV comedies The League, Parks and Recreation, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so his presence seems likely to inject some refreshingly offbeat personality into the glossy but unforgiving John Wick universe.
The Tick Tock Man sounds like a typically zany Mantzoukas character upgraded for John Wick’s high-adrenaline world — if he is indeed an assassin, he’ll likely be a weird one who focuses more on outsmarting or trapping Wick through feats of mechanical wizardry (hence his name) rather than outmuscling him. Another possibility, according to Cinema Blend, suggests that he could be “an eccentric player in this world that Wick turns to for assistance,” possibly playing the oddball Q to Wick’s scrappy Bond.
— Lionsgate UK (@LionsgateUK) May 22, 2018
The film’s formidable array of assassins looking to collect that $14 million on Wick’s head will also include a range of actors and martial artists. They include: Mark Dacascos, known for the movie Brotherhood of the Wolf and the TV cooking series Iron Chef; Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arif Rahman, who can be seen in the The Raid and Star Wars: The Force Awakens; and Chinese actor Tiger Hu Chen, who is a personal friend of Reeves and assisted with stunt choreography for first two Matrix films and Kill Bill: Vol. 1. The impressive lineup of fighters suggests that Chapter 3‘s fights will be increasingly elaborate affairs that are just as balletic as they are brutal.
The casting also suggests the John Wick franchise’s international ambitions. John Wick: Chapter 2 briefly brought Wick to Rome, introducing the concept of a global network of Continentals and hinting at the omnipresent influence of the High Table. This time, the rest of the world will converge on New York, as Chapter 3 focuses on Wick fighting his way out of the city.
But while Chapter 3 might go bigger in terms of its storytelling ambitions, it won’t be doing so through the typical action-flick devices of flashy explosions or multi-car wrecks. In an interview with Collider last year, Stahelski mentioned his desire to prioritize the series’ mythology and stylistic refinement over big-budget bombast:
“… rather than massive set pieces, I’d like to show you cooler and more intricate ones … I think it would be a mistake budget wise and creatively to just go big and blow up a freeway. That’s not our gig. That’s a comic book or a Bond gig. We want to show you cool and intricate details. What are those little details in everyday life? Hopefully we make people look at garbage collectors and cleaner vans and homeless people a little differently now.”
Given the fact that Lionsgate is also expanding the John Wick universe onto the small screen with the Starz series The Continental and have previously expressed interest in developing a female-driven spinoff from a script called Ballerina, there’s little surprise that Chapter 3 looks poised to lay the foundation for deeper explorations of how the High Table’s authority and the Continental sanctuary system operate across the globe.
In the past, we’ve speculated just how far the films could go without losing their narrative focus. But if they indeed wisely stop while they’re ahead and make Chapter 3 Keanu Reeves’s last outing as our favorite dog-avenging assassin, it’s unlikely that this will be the last we’ll see of his world — it’s more likely that the introduction of so many newcomers will leave the door open for a potential John Wick cinematic universe to take shape.