John Wick (2014, Stahelski and Leitch)
Admit it: we love nothing more than a cute, doe-eyed puppy. Well, perhaps some of you prefer the big-eyed kitten. Same thing for our purposes here. Both are perfectly adorable, and, most important, innocent and vulnerable.
In the action massacre film John Wick, these factors get amped up, squared, and squared again to justify, or at least to make it easier for us to accept, the savagery that comprises ninety percent of the movie.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves, who’s triple underscoring laconic here) lives in a dramatically modern and expensive house, but, oh, he is a very sad dude, indeed. His young wife died of a terrible disease, leaving him adrift, as it appears his entire life revolved around her (you know, as it should, right?). But wait, Helen, her name, reaches out to him from beyond the grave (you see, she knew she was doomed and also knew John needed the comfort of a downy remembrance); she reached out with a gift intended to help him bring order and peace to his life.
It’s a puppy, the cutest, most soulful-eyed beagle. Please don’t even attempt to conjure an image because you can’t. There’s never been a pup exuding as much charm in the history of kenneldom and star-bound canines. Naturally, after a bit of hesitation, man and pooch bond like nobody’s business. Such tenderness; what pleasure for the eyes and the heart.
Then John takes his little friend for a ride in the next truly fabulous element of the movie, nearly as love-inducing as the cute little doggie: his fully restored ’69 Boss model Mustang. Upfront here: we love the 60s and early 70s mustangs. We owned a ’67 convertible, Spring Yellow. Our best friend owned a 70 hardtop. We still dream about the Mustang.
Naturally, a wiseass hoodlum punk makes John an offer he can easily refuse to purchase the metallic icon. John tells him with measured politeness the vehicle too grand to be called a mere car is not for sale.
Okay, you know there’s going to be trouble. And right on schedule, the punk and his lackies break into John’s house and beat the hell out of him with pipes. Then they make two very big mistakes. Mistake One: they kill the cute little doggie. Now, everybody in the audience hates them. Mistake Two: they steal the Mustang. Now every vintage Mustang lover hates them.
Had an average guy received the tuneup John did, well, let’s just say they’d be taking up residence in the local ICU for a week or so. John, however, is anything but average. He’s up and at it the next day, a bit sore for the use but robust nonetheless. Turns out John was a major hit man for a mob led by Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist, formally a crusading Swedish reporter), and the punk is Viggo’s son. When Viggo gets the news, he beats his son. Next, he prepares for the unleashing of the hell hounds.
The rest of the movie is John obliterating the Tarasov mob in one spectacular gun battle after another. We don’t have to tell you who wins, just that John gets himself another dog, a very handsome Pit Bull, a breed more in keeping with his character as a true Badass. It’s a signal, too, that without Helen and Daisy (the beagle), John’s reverted to his old self. Translation: expect a sequel to be coming soon.
So, is there a point here about filmmaking. Absolutely. To win over your audience and justify body counts usually found in war movies or video games, have your bad guys demonstrate their innate evil by killing a cute itty-bitty puppy dog. And, establish this rule for yourself in real life: do not mess with a man’s pup or his really cool car or you may not live long enough to regret it. c/w