Exploring Life Through Action Films | John Wick [Spoilers]

Action films aren’t my typical go-to (unless super hero movies count?). I’m the one who goes for dorky Disney Channel Original Movies, animated flicks, RomComs, family-aimed adventure movies, or films from decades-gone-by (especially if Don Knotts is involved). However, when my friends decided to watch through the John Wick trilogy, I decided to give it a chance.

I discovered the John Wick trilogy is surprisingly thought-provoking.

I didn’t expect a movie that is 95% fight sequences to leave me so contemplative. It just goes to show how sometimes actions can speak louder than words (or a myriad of gunshots, as is the case in this movie). You could probably condense all of this trilogy’s dialogue into 5 pages or less per film. Yet, these movies speak volumes about psychology, love, actions and their consequences, and the condition of humanity.

Here are some of my takeaways from this series:

We need time to grieve our losses and to be loved along the way.

“Hurting people hurt people” is a phrase I’ve heard a few times. This series embodies it in a most vivid way. The series begins with John trying to cope with the death of his wife. His first and only semblance of solace comes in the form of a puppy that she left for him and in the memories of her that still linger in his Ford Mustang. When a member of the Russian mob kills his dog and steals his car, John has nothing and no one left to love. This sets the stage for the many deaths this ex-hitman will inflict to avenge his dog’s death and retrieve his car.

Revenge doesn’t help.

With nothing left to lose (he thinks), John sets off to retrieve his stolen car and take revenge on those who wronged him. In the end, he is left more empty, broken, sad, and angry than when he started. On top of that, his revenge trip caused folks from his days in the Russian mob to come back into his life. Eventually, these connections forced him to take up work as an assassin again.

If you request a favor, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to grant one in return.

Back in his mob days, John begged a favor off Santino, a particularly powerful acquaintance. This favor enabled him to complete an otherwise impossible task. The reward? Freedom to leave the mob forever and start a new life with the woman he loved. When he retires, John assumes he will never see Santino again. He assumed wrong. Unfortunately, being obligated to grant an equally big favor in return took its toll on him in many ways.

Every action has a consequence.

This is the one lesson that the movie explicitly states both in word and in deed. The mob world has many rules of conduct, loyalty, and etiquette. If you break one, there are consequences that range from maiming to murder.

Beyond that, however, you can watch over the series how John’s choices affect his life and those around him. Once he retired, he never intended to have such a profound and deadly impact on the lives of others, yet he does. The ripple effect is real and you can never tell how your actions will impact others.

Our lives are impacted by what/who we set our love upon.

In the end, love is always the biggest driving factor.

John Wick loved his wife above everything else. He was willing to kill anyone who got in the way of his mission to live a life remembering her.

Santino loved power. He loved and craved it more than he loved his own family members. This lead him to force John to assassinate his sister so that he could take her place at the High Table to gain control over the Russian mob.

Winston, the owner of the New York Continental Hotel (a safe haven for all Russian mobsters) loved comfort. Sure, he mostly went along with the mob’s rules of conduct, but he was willing to bend things if they didn’t suit him. Towards the end, he manipulated his two most loyal cohorts into fighting his battle for him while he sat cozy in a safe space. Winston even shot and betrayed John so that his cherished status of hotel manager wouldn’t be taken from him.

In the end…

The biggest takeaway for me is the last one. It leads me to some valuable questions:

  • Where am I placing the biggest share of my love?
  • What impact will chasing that love have on those around me?
  • In the end, where will chasing that love lead me and leave me?

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