Some kinds of entertainment are simply too difficult to experience in today’s society.
(F)or me, it’s becoming harder to come to terms with on-screen gun violence in a country defined by real-life tragedies. That’s specifically the case with a movie like John Wick, where the overall plot involves a violent revenge fantasy. Sure, John Wick is a character who, despite being a hardened killer, is a reformed wannabe pacifist in search of a peaceful life. But we’re never exposed to this emotional struggle or his battle with the violent life he’s forced to lead. For the most part, John Wick just silently and effectively kills in order to achieve the tranquil life of which he dreams. The movie exists solely for the action and violence. It has nothing to say beyond the excellently choreographed fight scenes. It doesn’t bother to wrestle with the effects—physically or psychologically—of gun violence.
There are, of course, countless violent movies that choose to ignore the emotional fallout of gun violence. John McClane seems to delight in killing terrorists in Die Hard, but his violence serves a purpose: to rescue scores of people from their captors. The carnage in John Wick exists as a form of pornography—it’s violence for the sake of violence.
I found myself wondering how I could enjoy something like the excellent fifth episode of Barry Season Two, but not the mindless entertainment of John Wick. That’s because Barry forces us to confront—on a deeper level—violence, whereas John Wick makes it look cool.
There will likely be a John Wick: Chapter 4, not to mention a spate of other revenge movies. Maybe it’s time for this type of cinema to evolve, to wrestle with what’s happening in our country in an artistic way beyond simply seeing how many people one guy can kill in a brutal three-movie rampage. A number of exceptional movies and TV shows already do. Why not John Wick?
– Matt Miller in I Couldn’t Bring Myself to Enjoy John Wick: Chapter 3