The fact that Stahelski, Letich, and Reeves put together an incredible film is all good and well. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that they also had a stacked ensemble cast, including the likes of Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Adrianne Palicki, and the late Lance Reddick — every genre project’s secret weapon. But does any of that matter without someone to distribute the film? It kind of doesn’t, and that was a huge problem for Thunder Road and 87Eleven Productions, who had yet to secure distribution with the October release date creeping up.
Yet, at the 11th hour, Lionsgate stepped in to secure the distribution rights to “John Wick.” The deal was finalized on August 11 — just over two months before the film was slated to hit theaters. Was that going to be enough time to launch an effective marketing campaign? Was that going to be enough time to build buzz for a movie from directors nobody had ever heard of, with a star whose best days in Hollywood were seemingly behind him? In this case, the movie Lionsgate acquired largely spoke for itself.
Fortunately, ditching the direct-to-video-sounding title “Scorn” in favor of the titular assassin’s name did some work in the lead-up to release to help it sound more Hollywood and less RedBox. It also didn’t hurt that buzz began building in a very real way, particularly after an electrifying screening at Fantastic Fest that convinced critics of the world that Keanu was back, and made the directors realize they had made a great movie. Lionsgate did its job, and they pulled this movie up by its bullet-riddled bootstraps.