“People keep asking me if I’m back… yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back!”
John Wick tells the story of John Wick (Keanu Reeves), a hit man that’s
described by those that know him as “the man who you send to kill
the Boogeyman.” Retired and having finally broken free from his life of
killing, Wick has settled down with a woman he loves and seemingly
found a sense of peace in the process, however, when his wife dies from
a serious illness, Wick is shaken to the core in his grief. Soon after, he is
surprised to discover that his wife has left him one last gift in the form
of a small puppy, giving him a sense of hope for the future, but when a
senseless home invasion results in the death of his beloved dog, Wick
decides to channel his rage by seeking revenge on the man who took his
last reminder of his loving wife away from him.
Still, in addition to the non-stop action, one of the more interesting aspects of this film is the struggle within John Wick. Despite his skills as a
gun for hire, Wick is a man who really desires to break free from his past,
desiring to bury his weapons. He has cut all ties with his mob associates
and out of his love for his wife; he has built a new life of freedom and
stability. In her, he has hope.
It is also interesting to note that his ‘old life’ is never entirely gone.
Although his weapons are buried under a concrete floor, they are still
available to him. Even though he doesn’t speak to his former contacts,
they continue to ‘check in’ with him from time to time. While he wants
redemption, John Wick continues to walk a very fine line and thus, when
he is finally crossed, goes on a vengeful rampage. All of a sudden, the
man who sought peace goes on the offensive side, digging back into the
darkness that still existed deep within him.
In many ways, John Wick is just a fuse waiting to be lit.
Still, I would argue that Wick’s return to violence isn’t less the fault of his
past than it is the root of his hope. While his love for his wife does offer
grace for Wick’s wandering spirit, that sense of hope that he finds isn’t
permanent. Although this type of love is what we’re told can save us, stories like John Wick remind us that this isn’t fully the case. As a Christian,
I recognize that this type of redemption can help but doesn’t truly offer
a change in nature. For instance, Wick’s freedom is based on the love of
someone who can’t stay with him forever. So, when she’s gone, so too is
his stability. Conversely however, Scriptures offers us a different picture.
When Paul claims that, in Christ, “the old has gone, the new has come”,
he’s making an argument for God’s desire to offer genuine, deep healing:
The kind that reaches deeply into our souls and offers light where there
The kind that allows us freedom from our past and hope for the future.
The kind that lasts.
Without this type of healing, John Wick inevitably falls back into his old
life for a time as he seeks to ‘make things square’. For him, vengeance
becomes the only equalizer as he desperately looks to quiet his soul. As
a result, he also has little resolution and, as the film ends, one can’t help
but see the inevitable sequel.
After all, Wick remains a man ready to explode.
BY STEVE NORTON