John Wick - Movie Review - On Gold, Guns, Masculine Determination, Russian Mafiosos, Digital Control, And Who The Bad Guys Really Are

Cultural Criticism - May 25, 2015

Promotional pics for Keanu Reeves as "John Wick."



A few days ago "John Wick" was on sale for $9.99 at VUDU, so I purchased it. I already knew that Reeves can't act. He has no emotional range. What he does best is play action roles with plenty of stunts and little dialogue. The slick, handsome, silent hero. It was 11pm when, halfway through the film, I stopped. I had been up since 5am, and had had a long day at work. So I was spent already. But I turned it off because the movie left me feeling dead inside. Not that I didn't feel that way already, given the circumstances of my employment; but John Wick made it worse. There was no emotive center, no compelling narrative that drew me in. I thought to myself, of my 300+ movies at VUDU, a good 2/3rds of them are from the same genre of film: male-oriented, guns-and-killing-filled, revenge or simple blood-lust motivated, emotionally shallow, and 2-dimensional in terms of social relations. John Wick is a modern re-imagining of the famed spaghetti westerns that Clint Eastwood starred in.

After two nights of viewing, yesterday I finally was able to get a 6 hour hike in, and it was during this time, under the blistering sun of Joshua Tree, that I was able to form an intellectual response to the movie.

The Good:

Great fighting scenes. I didn't appreciate this until I watched the stunts featurette (one of seven special features that came with the purchase). Keanu trained intensively for four months prior to filming. Martial arts experts were brought in. The lead trainer called it "gun fu" due to the unique and seamless blending of martial arts (Kung Fu, Ju Jitsu, etc.) with hand gun firing. I don't think another lead actor has performed such complex fighting scenes so gracefully. Props to Mr. Reeves.

Determination and resolve. That is often the greatest take away from these testerone-filled boys' films that I watch. With bravery and perseverance, the hero always wins the day. This lesson is analogous to the spiritual work we all undertake toward greater self-understanding. The attempt to ground Spirit in the body in this world makes a bloody painful mess of one's life. A perpetual delaying of gratification and the capacity to withstand tremendous sorrow are key factors to success on the path.

Creative vision of New York City's underworld. The Continental Hotel was a swank location where criminals hung their hats and took time to socialize and make deals, but violence was strictly forbidden. The idea of there being a hidden parallel universe within a city was interesting. There is a scene where Wick, after killing 12 men who had attacked him in his home, met a police officer at his front door responding to "noise disturbance" complaints. It is late at night and the police car lights of red and blue blink behind him. Seeing bodies stacked in the hallway, the cop asks politely, "John, are you working again?" I forget what Wick says -- perhaps it was, "Sort of..." -- but the police officer kindly takes leave, letting Wick know that if he needs any help to just let him know. What I understood from this scene is that cops know there is a hierarchy in the world of crime, and that the lines separating private, government, corporate, mafia, and military factions all blur as you reach the top. The cop understood, at least at some level, the boundaries in play, and respectfully stood down to allow interests higher up the food chain handle the matter.

The Bad:

The movie's motive is one of Wick's desire for revenge wrought from the killing of his dog and the stealing of his car. It is because of these insults that he kills what might be 100 people. Granted the film is a caricature of criminality, a noir-themed piece based on a graphic novel. But it was painful to consider nonetheless. At the very end, after an entire gang has been offed, Wick finds a new dog and with leash in hand, walks away as the screen fades to black. In the most obvious sense, the movie speaks to an adolescent level of emotional maturity where a dog's value exceeds that of 100 people. To see this in play, as a code of ethics, was dehumanizing. Maybe people are worth less than dogs. I know that is what many people who control the levers of power in our society feel. The elites matter, but the rest of us don't. In fact, our presence is a liability, hence the ongoing culling of the population. If the elites can have the masses accept the notion that they are worthless, it grants the elites the moral basis for exterminating us, as far as the secret society code goes,

Anti-gold propaganda. You don't often see gold featured so prominently in movies. In "John Wick" gold is the exclusive currency of the criminal world. It is used for payment at the Continental Hotel; to gain entry into elite clubs; and to pay others to clean up the dead bodies you've left. There is still the $4 million contract bounty placed by the mob boss on Wick's head, presumably to be paid in cash. But that is mentioned just a couple of times. Visually, gold plays a far more prominent role, such as when Wick unearths his cache of weapons and ammo, and embedded in the suitcase liner are rows of shiny one ounce gold coins. "Guns and Gold" could be the movie's subtitle. But given that Hollywood doesn't produce anything without some government dictat woven into it, I was uneasy. Are we now to subconsciously associate gold with everything bad in the world, and hence mount little protest when the same elites who hoard gold decree that private ownership has become illegal in order to fight "terror?" Though this would be no more than a ruse to further tighten the noose around our collective freedoms, movies like John Wick would help make such a move palatable to the public. The government wants to track, control, and tax all financial transactions. Gold (and any other tangible, portable store of value) is a threat to governmental monopoly power over all economic activity. Do you think the Jews who escaped Nazi Germany would have been able to do so had Hitler created a cashless society and had outlawed ownership of gold? I don't think so.

The movie's notion of villainy is deceptively simplistic. The bad guys are stereotypical ethnic criminals. You get a hint that the Catholic church is linked up with them, as well. However, from my readings into politics over the years, I have learned that true villainy is the merger of corporate, government, religious, and mafia-cartel interests. The higher one goes up in the ranks of power, the more you see that all these groups work together to keep little guys down. As John D. Rockefeller said, "Competition is a sin." Large criminal operations in New York can only occur with the cooperation, or at least permission, from all the power brokers of the area. Everyone of importance takes a cut; everyone is paid.

Russia as the bad guy. Please. Like the USA or England or Germany have had no bad actors? Who dropped the atomic bomb unnecessarily twice onto a country? Who gave the Blacks syphillis as part of a medical experiment? Who broke 100s of treaties with and gave small pox blankets to the Indians? Who created HIV as part of it biowarfare agenda? Who is spraying our skies today with biologically available heavy metals in a eugenics-inspired plan to reduce human population to 1/10th its current size? Who paid $5 billion to overthrow a pro-Russian government in the Ukraine so as to foment war with Russia? Who needs another immoral and unnecessary war to distract from a failure of the $2 quadrillion in derivatives bets created by the banking class in order to earn their 2% commission every time such fraudulent financial instruments are rolled over? Which is not to say I love the KGB, but if you are going to do some blaming, let us at least be fair about it.

"John Wick" 's music was loud, overshadowing the plot and action many times. It was a masculine pounding rock and roll. I don't recall another movie where the music was so obnoxious and interfering.

Control in 2015 is not photos and other artifacts kept in a safe deposit box somewhere. Wick sets on fire a church vault, destroying the leverage the mafioso don held over the elites of the city. This is a lie. Control today is digital. Control is the NSA facility in Utah, and other locations, where our every text, phone call, email, blog post, financial transaction, and GPS location is tracked, catalogued, profiled, and permanently warehoused. Select agencies and corporations hold the keys to every human beings' mobile device, cell phone, and computer. They, literally, can track your every movement and thought in real time. Software and hardware manufacturers cannot operate now without creating intentional "defects" in their technology for the elites of this growing fascist control system to exploit. This is the end of privacy and the end of human freedom. This can and will end badly.

That it is the individual, alone and unaided, who is to bring justice to the world, is another canard. Yes, people need to be self-reliant and strong. But in order to effect change, especially in the large, complex social systems of the 21st century, individuals must band together and cooperate in order to effectively assert their interests. As with all these lone-wolf, vigilante-justice, the-group-is-bad-the-individual-is-good movies that I watch,Wick acted alone. Sure, Willem Defoe's character, another contract killer, turns on his employer and assists Wick, but basically Wick was on his own. As long as Hollywood hypes this violent self-reliance motif, Washington, D.C., the City of London, and the planet's oligarchical power structure will have nothing to fear. There will never be effective mobilization of the citizenry to bring about positive political and economic change.

Returning to my initial dis-ease with the film, "John Wick" is just another tiring repeat of people -- mostly men -- solving problems through violence. It seems that Hollywood has a limited imagination when it comes to conflict resolution. This stunting of our moral capacity is intentional. Anyone who has seen war knows that it is a hateful activity and that civilized people should take up arms only as a last resort, for example, in the case of self-defense as the founders of our Constitutional republic intended over 200 years ago. Bloodshed should not be engaged merely to assert economic or political advantage. On the other hand, humanity must not be conditioned to become eunach sheep unwilling to defend their own self-interests. Tyrants are encouraged by another's meekness and submission. Appeals to conscience or reason are ineffective. Tyrants must be dealt with in a manner they understand.

Lastly, in "John Wick" it is clear that criminals run New York City. I would argue that the same can be said of Washington, D.C. The ignorant may believe that there exists a virtuous struggle in the halls of power -- a contest over who or which party can deliver the greatest good to the public. But in actuality, by and large, it is just political theater over which group of sociopaths gets to control the levers of power and dominate the bottom 99%.

Notes: loves John Wick. Apparently, there is some symbolism that escaped me and that, in the view of its author, redeems the movie. The page is overwhelming, visually and intellectually, like digital shaktipat. Just be careful. There is a lot of good stuff there. But like they say about rat poison, it's the 5% tha is bad stuff that will kill you.


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