My husband wanted to take me on a romantic date, so, of course, we saw John Wick. If you haven’t heard about it, here is the plot: a mourning and scraggly Keanu Reeves plays John Wick, a widower whose wife has left him a post-mortem gift to help him grieve: the cutest beagle puppy since Snoopy. Even worse, a couple of days later, Russian gangsters beat him up, steal his ‘69 Mustang, and kill the puppy. Little did the Russians know, John Wick is worse than the Boogeyman, and thus begins his revenge killing spree.
Better Than the Eighties
Unlike the ultra-masculine proto-males of the eighties, John Wick is vulnerable and sensitive. He cries, he lets the puppy sleep in his bed with him, he looks longingly at his dead wife’s jewelry, and he watches videos of her throughout the film. This is what every woman wants: a man who will mourn her death eternally. Even more, we want a man who loves little dogs. And this is why every American can justify the collateral damage of at least 95 Russian thugs for the puppy. This is something we can get behind. Without a doubt, Americans care more about homeless dogs and abused cats than we do our human brothers and sisters.
As a child of the 80s, I saw dozens of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Dolph Lundgren movies. They were fun movies that glorified murder on a grand scale and included graceful jumps from motorcycles where the hero literally lands on his feet. Most of those 80s films demonized Russians, but John Wick is different: these Russians used to be his friends and he doesn’t waste time with silly iconic lines (“I’ll be back”) or outrageous physical feats; his silence and his relentlessness are his secret weapons. He never hesitates; he just pulls the trigger with graceful purpose. His focus and determination are inspirational lessons for the viewer: If we just focus enough, we can overcome anything in our way.
There are so many people killed in this movie, I thought it might have exceeded Rambo IV (236), but the murder of the puppy is so heinous that it distorts the kill-count as something significantly higher. Keanu is no stranger to fight sequences, but he has proven in John Wick that fighting and killing are the right things to do. The final sequence of the film (I don’t want to give it away) brilliantly restores order to the chaotic world we live in and reminds us of what is important: we need to rescue puppies, Russians can’t be trusted, and you never know who is secretly an assassin, so be nice to everyone.