Slightly more than two years ago, “John Wick: Chapter 2” hit theaters, proving the success and excitement of the first installment wasn’t a fluke. While gun-toting action flicks are certainly nothing new for the American audience—or for Keanu Reeves in the title role—these films somehow delivered the same time-honored blast-’em-up action we’ve grown accustomed to in entirely new and different ways.
Gone were the slow motion cartwheels and elegant CGI dancing of the Matrix. In these films, Reeves engages his opponents in novel and visually brutal ways, combining gun work and martial arts into a fluid and dynamic approach to cinematic homicide.
I reviewed “John Wick: Chapter 2” when it released and made a lofty declaration—John Wick is what American film has been hoping to find for decades: America’s James Bond. Wick succeeded in accomplishing what heroes like Jason Bourne and Jack Ryan failed to do. This isn’t because of any parallels between Wick and Bond, but more about the way these films unapologetically dismiss the fundamental elements of other movies you’d expect within the genre. Wick has no interest in being James Bond. Wick just wants to get the job done.
To quote myself at the time, “If England is a well-dressed boarding school graduate with a compact Walther PPK and a martini, America is a bearded man in a black suit, carrying a modified Glock 34, drinking bourbon, and walking his pit bull. And I’m pretty damn okay with that.”
Now, with “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” cruising toward theatrical release on May 17th, videos are surfacing showing the film’s star, Keanu Reeves, continuing to hone his close quarters combat skills in order to deliver the signature grit, intensity, and unique fight situations famous in these films. In the weeks leading up to previous releases, short videos of Reeves training under Taran Butler, considered by many experts as among the most versatile, capable, and quick competition shooters in the world. Reeves’ time spent on Taran Tactical’s 3-gun course is the stuff of Reddit legend.
Watching the star of these films execute that 3-gun course with live rounds is a real thrill for those of us with a passion for firearms. I’ve personally credited Reeves’ hard work in this environment, alongside his years of training in judo, jiu jitsu, boxing and krav maga, for the incredible action scenes which make the Wick movies what they are. But as a guy who’s spent a fair amount of time training for combat sports, there’s always an important distinction to be made between what works in competition… and what actually works.
I could teach you a dozen defensive postures that would work wonders in a grappling competition but would actually get you killed in a bar fight—just like training to engage paper targets at high speed in set locations can help you win a tournament, but may not make for a feasible tactical shooter in a bad situation. Reeves and the folks filming “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” seemed to be aware of this as well. Either as an effort to add more realism to the film or just because Reeves has an interest in firearms, recent online videos show the star training not just to look cool and be fast with a gun, but to actually be able to engage opponents in realistic settings.
In this new footage, Reeves is learning from former Navy SEAL and CIA contractor Shawn Ryan. Ryan, a veteran of SEAL Teams 2 and 8, had more than 20 combat deployments to his name before founding Vigilance Elite, an outfit dedicated to tactical training.
Watch Reeves train with Ryan below: