“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” features wall to wall action, including some breathtaking stunts with dogs and horses.
How did they do that?
When John Wick (Keanu Reeves), who’s got a $14 million bounty on his head, runs into a horse stable, even though his pursuers continue shooting, no horses are harmed. The ever-resourceful Wick actually commandeers a horse to escape on — after encouraging one to kick a bad guy. Ouch.
Per Humane Hollywood, which monitored the action on the production and gave it an “Outstanding” score, Reeves didn’t actually slap the horse to get it to kick. And although that was a real horse kick, the bad guy on the receiving end of those hooves was added later:
The horses were prepped for specific behaviors that fit the film script… Trainers made sure the fight scenes took place at a safe distance from the background horses. When we see the horse kick one of the bad guys, the trainers placed their trained kicking horse at his mark at the end of a row of stalls. The trainer worked the horse with riding crop and cuing him with his voice. On action, the trainer made a noise with the crop, the horse kicked. There were no actors in this shot. The kick to the actor was added in post-production. They cut and showed the actor on the ground as if he was already kicked. Also, [Reeves] pantomimed slapping the horse on the backside to get him to kick.
Read more about the inspiration for the horse chase — both director Chad Stahelski and Reeves are Sergio Leone fans — at Den of Geek:
Reeves confirmed he could ride a horse and was game to incorporate one into a fight scene. “[Keanu’s] like, ‘I had this idea of fighting in a stable,'” Stahelski says. The director had scouted a location near Central Park a year earlier where he found a stable. I made [the location scout] take me in there like literally like a couple blocks up Central Park, and this brick face building was five-stories. I’m like, John Wick’s going to run in this f**ing place. And we’re gonna have a gun fight with horses. And then f**k it, he’s gonna get on a horse because Keanu said he can ride a horse.
As for Sofia (Halle Berry)’s attack dogs, director Chad Stahelski did a lot of research to find the right breed for the job. He settled on Belgian Malinois, the same breed that Navy SEALS use. As he told Inverse.com. “They’re so aggro. They’re the natural athletes of the canine world. So the dogs thought it was play, that’s what they love to do.”
He tapped animal trainer Andrew Simpson, who also trained the wolves in HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” to train the dogs — as well as the cast and stunt team — to work together in complex action scenes.
“Anyone who had to be around the dogs had to spend a substantial amount of time so the dogs were comfortable,” says Stahelski. “When they have to go into that place of ‘arrrrgh ‘mode, they understand it is play, but you do fire up the animal. And if you’re not used to that, you don’t want to distract the animal.”
Are any animals hurt in the film? (MILD SPOILERS): We see that Sofia is as dedicated to her dogs as John Wick was to Daisy: When she takes Wick to see Berrada (Jerome Flynn), who’s connected to the High Table, Berrada demands she give him one of her dogs. She refuses, so he shoots the dog! We all know what’s coming next: She, Wick, and the dogs take down everyone in sight.
Both dogs were wearing harnesses, so it appears that the one that was shot was not actually injured. Still, it’s enough to tick off any animal lover.
And, by the way, the dog who climbs a 30-foot wall? Real, not CGI, as Rob Nederhorst, the film’s visual effects, pointed out on Twitter.
David Edelstein from @vulture inaccurately described parts of @JohnWickMovie as CGI. Horses are all real. The dog climbed up that wall. Our action team was incredible and I am honored to have worked with them.— Rob Nederhorst (@rob_nederhorst) May 15, 2019
As for Wick’s own dog before the action really starts, Wick drops off the pit bull with Charon (Lance Reddick). The Continental may now be off-limits to Wick, but not to his very good dog. Later, the two are reunited and Good Dog gets to chill with Winston (Ian McShane) in a safe room while a gun battle rages upstairs.
Meanwhile, assassin Zero (Mark Dacascos), who moonlights as a sushi chef, admits he’s more of a cat person. We briefly see his cat, who gets only the best fish noms, when The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) shows up to demand his services.