John Wick Is Kind of a Dick

I didn’t know much about John Wick before I saw it recently. I knew the title character goes on a violent rampage after his dog is killed. I knew it came highly recommended– the action scenes in particular were supposed to be excellent.

My mistake was expecting a darkly comic tone. Perhaps a hyper-violent Big Lebowski. The name “John Wick” isn’t all that important– he might as well be The Dude. Everyone he meets knows, respects, and fears him. “You killed my dog, man. That mutt really tied my life together.”

Instead, the movie is somber and mournful. We learn quickly that the dog is a proxy for The Dude’s dead wife. This isn’t inherently bad, but some interesting ideas are left on the table.

John says he can’t mourn without the dog. Except… he could learn to do so. He could discover that grief is something he has to go through himself. Having something to care for could make it easier, but it won’t do the work for him.

There’s also a moment halfway through where The Dude has a clear shot at the dweeb who killed his dog– and doesn’t take it. In that moment of hesitation, he loses the opportunity. I thought we would get some self-reflection: Is revenge really worth it? Apparently yes, if the rest of the movie is any indication.

Instead of all this, we get another brooding male hero who solves his problems with violence. Does he grow or change? He returns to his life of crime, so that’s something, I guess. We have to leave an opening for a sequel.

The action scenes. Right. They were fine, I guess. Spaghetti westerns aside, I’m not usually a fan of gun fights: either the heroes are spraying bullets everywhere because they can’t hit the broadside of a barn, or they make mowing down dozens of mooks too easy.

And The Dude seems to get the drop on everybody. The villains never seem like much of a threat. His dog is killed for petty reasons, so there’s very little at stake. In fact, I found myself relating to the villain, a mob boss trying to protect his son from an unstoppable killing machine.

This is a story about a badass who does badass things, and decides to continue being a badass because he can.

The ending did leave me with questions, though.

The Dude’s been injured, so he drags himself to a vet clinic and patches up his gaping wounds. He sees several dogs in kennels at the vet… so he takes one with him and goes on his way.

Now, again, we have the potential for an interesting idea. An homage to The Bicycle Thieves: someone took John’s dog, so he takes someone else’s. The cycle continues.

Wikipedia tells me these dogs are due to be euthanized. So he’s not taking someone else’s pet. Does it have some terrible health problem? Was it going to die anyway, in terrible agony?

Let’s give the story the benefit of the doubt: All these dogs are perfectly healthy, but are being put to sleep to be turned into coats or something. Why doesn’t The Dude take all of them? He’s clearly a man of means. His career as a hitman is really taking off again.

They should’ve called this movie John Dick. But that’s like, my opinion, man.

Andrew Sherwood