Equalizer versus John Wick

This week I’m talking about the movies The Equalizer versus John Wick and what messages these films give us. Storytelling is a great way to convey a message. The great teachers tell stories. We let our guards down when we listen and often find characters in which we can relate.

Both of these movies are terribly violent, so I don’t recommend that you watch them. But, there are messages in these films that are worth examining.

John Wick

Let’s start with the John Wick movies. There are four movies in this series. John Wick is a retired hit man/executioner for the criminal underworld. The story begins with him already in grief over the loss of his wife. He is then wronged by someone from his old life. He comes out of retirement and kills a ridiculous number of people.

The initial movie is about lost love and the descent into revenge. These feelings of revenge are probably exacerbated by the loss of his wife. He’s looking for someone to punish for her death.

Revenge and Consequences

John is able to find revenge, but the act of seeking revenge triggers consequences which he is unable to avoid. The theme of consequences grows stronger as you reach the end of the series. No matter how many people Wick kills, he’s still facing a pre-determined end based on his choices. He has to face the consequences of his actions.

The Equalizer

Robert McCall is a retired assassin for the government. (What is it with this retired assassin theme?!). He faked his death years ago after the death of his wife (another assassin with a dead wife?!) and now lives a quiet life as an average working class guy. But, he can’t sleep at night.

He spends his nights at a cafe close to his house. It’s during these evenings that he meets a young prostitute. He sees potential in her and encourages her to make positive changes in her life. One evening she is beaten and nearly killed. He then comes out of retirement to help her.

Love and Justice

McCall wants to help people. Before killing someone he frequently gives them a chance to “make things right”. They can choose what will happen next and he shows remorse over the fact that most people will not change.

If someone will not relent, McCall administers justice. He seems to sleep better at night once the justice is meted out. It’s important to again note that he resists violence. His wife made him promise to change and he wants to honor her wishes.

Where does this end?

Where do our protagonists end up? John Wick seeks revenge and ends up dead. What has he accomplished? He has killed an enormous amount of people in the criminal underworld, but hasn’t made a difference. Every time someone dies, another person rises up to take their place.

There has been no revolution or lasting change in the criminal underworld. He’ll be soon forgotten and evil will continue. I left these films with a sense that life was meaningless. What’s the point of doing anything at all? Evil will triumph.

The Equalizer has a different ending. With the exception of the second film, he is helping someone. In the first and third films he frees people from oppression. In the end, we see him finding happiness and community. He’s living in love with a group of people and has made a difference.

Revenge v Love

These movies give us a great study in self-centered revenge versus others-centered love. Personal revenge leads Wick to death and love of others leads McCall to life. Both characters look like they’re doing the same thing. They kill a lot of people. But, their motivations are different.

Motivations behind actions are important. No, they are VITAL! You might do something nice for someone, but did you do it so you would look good? Did you help someone with the expectation of receiving help in return? On the other hand, you might need to punish a child or fire someone at work, but are you doing this to help them amend their destructive behavior? On the surface, it may appear that you are a terrible person, but your actions are intended to lead someone to a better place.

Take aways

One last thing. These two stories give us a pathway to healing. The only way Wick can find healing is by leaving this world. He is focused on himself and inflicting loss on others. McCall finds a pathway to healing through the service of others. He looks toward meeting the needs of other people.

If you like to watch these movies, I encourage you to think about the deeper messages that these films convey. Every story has a message. Nothing is truly mindless entertainment.

2 responses to “Equalizer versus John Wick”

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