It has been a decade since the first John Wick film was released. Starring Keanu Reeves in the titular role of Wick, the film follows the story of the legendary hitman who comes out of retirement to seek revenge against the man who killed his dog, a final gift from his recently deceased wife. The film was made under the direction of Chad Stahelski. Another man who co-directed and produced the John Wick, David Leitch, shared his insight on an essential shot for the hard-hitting action franchise. He credits Wick’s furry friend for giving the film series the bite it needed to connect with audiences.

Speaking with CineFix, Leitch reviewed some of his favorite scenes from the first film of the John Wick franchise, released in 2014. According to Leitch, the scene where Wick meets his puppy for the first time was a catalyst for the film and franchise, considering his dog would be killed soon after the scene, giving the eponymous hitman serious motivation. He said, “There’s so many great shots in the first John Wick. I think one that’s the most impactful is Keanu pulling the dog out of the dog carrier. It’s sort of the emotional fuel for the entire series. It represents Helen, his wife, and his humanity, and that they’re going to not let him retain his humanity when the dog is killed.”

While Leitch believed that it was a provocative move to kill off the puppy in John Wick, the distributor of the film Lionsgate feared potential repercussions and negative reactions from the viewers. However, the puppy’s death gave Wick the “emotional fuel” he needed and a purpose for coming out of his retirement and going on a justifiable killing spree. Leitch said, “I think that was also such a provocative thing to do in a film. We were told so many times by the studio and by a lot of film friends, they’re like, ‘You can’t kill the dog. It’ll curse the movie.’ I think we really knew in our heart of hearts it was the emotional fuel we needed for this character and what we wanted to do on the other side of it. So I think that’s really one of the most important shots in the John Wick franchise.”

The Dog’s Death became a turning point for John Wick and the Franchise

After losing his wife Helen, John Wick was left with a beagle puppy she had given him to help him cope with his loss. As Wick was starting to bond with the puppy and come to terms with his grief, fate took the dog away from him as well. In the latest John Wick film, Chapter 4, the filmmakers once again nod to Wick’s love for dogs from the first film, with one dog unexpectedly saving him during his do-or-die battle with the High Table. This intervention of a dog provides a callback to his bond with his late dog in the initial film, thereby continuing the storyline. Though Wick gets help from his furry friend in the heat of battle, Wick seemingly meets his demise at the end of Chapter 4.

The ambiguous Chapter 4 ending was followed by Lionsgate announcing that John Wick 5 is in development. The studio is keen on Reeves’ involvement as the story for the upcoming sequel takes shape. The John Wick franchise is also expanding thanks to a recent multimedia deal spearheaded by Lionsgate and Stahelski, which will see the development of more spinoff films and TV shows.

David Leitch is an American filmmaker, stunt performer, stunt coordinator, and actor. He made his directorial debut in the 2014 action film John Wick with Chad Stahelski, though only Stahelski was credited. His directorial credits include the 2017 thriller film Atomic Blonde,  2018’s Deadpool 2, and more. Recently, he directed the 2024 film The Fall Guy, starring Oscar-nominated actors Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt.

John Wick is available to stream via Peacock.

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