Fans of the franchise hotly anticipate the fourth film, but with all the gun-fu carnage in his wake, it can’t end well for John Wick no matter what.
Fans hotly anticipate what’s sure to be an exciting conclusion to the franchise in John Wick 4 and its possible back-to-back sequel, but Keanu Reeves’ master gun-fu assassin is careening toward a desolate finish. The famously vindictive Wick has already tallied a hefty kill count through three movies thus far in an effort to earn justice for his slain dog. But at what point does his revenge mission tip the ethical scales? With all the carnage that’s transpired, and more sure to come, the window for Wick to escape this violent situation is fast closing.
All John Wick wanted was to get out—and for a brief, blissful time, he was able to leave behind his assassin profession and live with his beloved wife. But when she died tragically of a terminal illness, he was left only with his car and a parting gift from his late Helen: a beagle puppy. Then some ignorant gangsters took both those gifts from him, and all bets were off. After terminating that threat, another reared its head in John Wick 2, and since then, it’s become clear that for a killer of John Wick’s caliber and reputation, there’s no such thing as “out.”
Three movies later, the notion that “John Wick went too far” has entered the discourse, with Promising Young Woman writer-director Emerald Fennell questioning the endgame of revenge narratives. Her own film asks audiences to consider the ultimate success or failure of a character whose driving goal is avenging tragedy. In the end, she and others who’ve pointed out this genre trope have determined that in fulfilling these violent desires, happiness is out of the question. It’s why John Wick’s story can’t really finish with a happy ending.
When audiences consider a film as having a happy ending, they’re often referring to the protagonist achieving the goal which they’ve pursued tirelessly for the prior two hours. This goal, however, is by no means required to yield happiness, especially when achieving it would impose immense mortal costs on themselves and others, as is the case with a revenge movie like John Wick. Put simply, there are two ways the franchise will end: Wick either achieves his goal of getting out or he dies trying. Whether it ends in his own death, or his having to live with the ethical toll of untold thousands dead by his hand, neither makes for what one would call a “happy” ending when considering he’s had to relinquish every bit of redemption he’d gained thanks to his wife.
What would a happy ending look like for Mr. Wick? The only things that brought him happiness in his life were his late wife and dog. No matter how much blood payment he earns for those tragic losses, there’s nothing he can do to bring them back to him. This underscores the general notion that revenge is a hollow pleasure, as proven by Wick being forced to burn every last bridge with The Continental. Though audience members will surely clamor for his success in exacting his revenge, it may be helpful to keep in mind that what makes audiences happy in John Wick 4 will not necessarily make the titular character happy in the end.
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