Through the ever-popular John Wick franchise, Keanu Reeves continues to be one of the most respected action stars working in Hollywood. Whether it's Speed or The Matrix series prior to the A-list star's popular gun fu-loving title character, Reeves has a lot of respect, dedication and loving admiration for the action films of yore, notably including some of his greatest hits. That's certainly made evident throughout the John Wick movies, which carry no shortage of nods, winks and homages to several classic action movies, including The Matrix trilogy (and soon-to-be quadrilogy!).
John Wick is an action-loving franchise that was built of the action movies of the past, while constantly upping-the-ante in a way that hopefully allows the genre to grow in exciting and engaging new ways. With the latest installment in the franchise, John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, being released in May, and plans for a fourth movie underway, we should expect to see John Wick kicking butt and taking names on the big screen again quite soon. For now, though, let's take a look back at the nods and tributes to past action movies seen in the first three installments.
John Wick Saying "Guns. Lots Of Guns," Referencing The Matrix
In the latest John Wick film, there is a moment near the much-anticipated Continental Hotel free-for-all shootout/material arts extravaganza, as the film is building to its extended third-act action set piece. John Wick is building up his reservoir of guns and ammo needed in his fight against anyone and everyone who is going to try to take him down that hectic night in the one-time safe ground of this assassin hotel. It's a calm before the storm moment, where John, aided by Winston (Ian McShane) and Charon (Lance Reddick), prepares for the coming battle. Before this moment comes to pass, though, Winston turns to John Wick and asks him what he'll need from the Continental.
It's at this point that John Wick utters the line, "Guns. Lots of guns," which should be instantly familiar to anyone who knows Keanu Reeves' career — as well as one of the most pivotal action blockbusters of the 20th century. That's right, it's a direct reference to The Matrix, as that's a line Reeves made famous with his deadpan delivery in the first movie. This line was uttered during a similar moment, when Neo (Reeves) gets ready for the third-act shootout sequence with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and he's presented with The Stockroom, which contains an arsenal of guns. (And, naturally, lots of them.)
This moment in John Wick: Chapter 3 is not the subtlest movie nod, certainly. But, hey, it doesn't need to be subtle! It's a fun tip of the cap to The Matrix, the eventual franchise-spanning film that initially brought Reeves and director/former stuntman Chad Stahelski together two decades prior.
John Wick Loading An Old Revolver, Referencing The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Early in John Wick: Chapter 3, there's a moment where John Wick needs to fashion an old-fashioned custom pistol in order to defeat the lurking villains who want him dead in order to collect the large bounty over the tortured assassin's head. This scene is fairly identical to one of the most well-known action westerns in history, Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, where an opening sequence has the character of Tuco, i.e. "the Ugly," making a custom pistol out of several different parts in a gun shop. While this is certainly not a Keanu Reeves film, it's a very loving nod to film history.
The John Wick franchise has always been good about making sure it pays its due to the action movies of the past, and this sequence is certainly no exception. When it comes time to take down some baddies, you know that John Wick will find a way to forge a weapon — whatever it might be —in a moment's notice. This is, naturally, a nice tip of the hat to one of the most famous movies in cinematic history, and a loving and respecting tribute.
The Bowery King Receives Two Red and Blue Containers, Referencing The Matrix
One of the most direct connections between The Matrix films and the John Wick sequels is the inclusion of both Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne. The actors previously played Neo and Morpheus opposite one another, and in the John Wick sequels, Reeves' John Wick is often getting help from The Bowery King, who is played in very lively fashion by the great Fishburne. In the third John Wick movie, there appears to be a subtle nod to one of the most famous iconographies of the original Matrix film.
Midway through John Wick: Chapter 3, The Bowery King is shown in a montage where he is getting dressed. In that moment, he reaches for two different containers. One is notably the color blue, while the other is red. For The Matrix fans, they'll know that this is in reference to one of the biggest elements from the first film, where Morpheus presents Neo with both a blue and red pill, allowing him the chance to either forget everything he just learned about his dystopian world, or continue moving forward into the world he was just presented. It's another clear, but fun nod to the hit movie.
A Video Game Mentions A Character Named Point Break, Referencing Point Break (Obviously)
Before Speed, The Matrix and now John Wick solidified Keanu Reeves' status as an action star extraordinaire, there was Point Break. The surf-friendly flick was an early success for Keanu, and it's one that the actor has repeatedly paid his respects to throughout his career. Case-in-point, in the original John Wick, there is a moment where henchmen are seen playing a game on a console. On the television, one of the characters has a very familiar name.
That's right, one character on the game is simply named "Point Break." It's certainly not a particularly subtle or nuanced nod, but it gets the point across, and it allows fans of Keanu Reeves' past work to know that the actor still likes to pay his respects to the films that paved the way to his series.
There are several scattered references to movies — action and otherwise — seen throughout the John Wick franchise. As we noted earlier, these are just a few of the examples seen throughout the series, thus far, particularly in Chapter 3. But if you have some other favorites, feel free to list them below! John Wick: Chapter 4 will arrive in theaters on May 21, 2021.
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Will is an entertainment writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. His writing can also be found in The Playlist, Cut Print Film, We Got This Covered, The Young Folks, Slate and other outlets. He also co-hosts the weekly film/TV podcast Cinemaholics with Jon Negroni and he likes to think he's a professional Garfield enthusiast.