Who is the good guy in John Wick, the new movie starring Keanu Reeves?

“That’s easy,” you say. “John Wick. It’s right there in the title.”

Well, by that logic, who’s the hero of Jaws? Or Hook? Or Terminator?

I like rooting for the good guy, but it’s not easy to find one in this movie. Is John a “good guy”? He’s a professional assassin – the kind who wears a Shabbos suit to kill people. I don’t know if I’d let him babysit.

The only good person in that whole world dies before the movie starts.

Not that there are a lot of options. There really are no good people in the movie. Not even bystanders. It’s like Sodom. Everyone seems to be involved in something. The only good person in that whole world dies before the movie starts.

The movie opens with Sad Keanu. His wife, one of the few people in this world who wasn’t evil, dies in a wordless montage at the beginning of the movie. He sets out to mope around the house. But after your standard rainy funeral, he gets a delivery – it’s a dog that his wife ordered for him before she died. That’s awesome. When I die, I’m totally getting my wife a gift from beyond the grave. I can’t wait to not see the look on her face.

“A dog? I don’t have enough people to take care of?”

John has that dog for about a day before the son of some Russian mobster breaks into his house, steals his car, and kills the dog.

(When you’re Russian in a movie, your career choices are mobster and nuclear physicist. And this isn’t a movie for nuclear physicists.)

So John decides to work out his feelings, mostly by shooting. The rest of the movie, for the most part, is a revenge flick – John comes back out of retirement to kill the guy who killed his dog, and of course any Russian mobsters who stand in his way, which is basically all of them. Sometimes people are just in your way. Narrow hallways and whatnot.

So is John the good guy? We’re definitely rooting for him, mostly because the dog was adorable. But he was an assassin. For the mob. And apparently, he’s never quite grasped the concept of disproportionate response.

Yeah, but he retired, right? That’s the nice thing about being a hitman. You can retire early with a suitcase full of video game tokens.

On the other hand, he didn’t retire because he decided that killing wasn’t what God wanted from him. He retired because he got married, and when you get married, all your old friends mysteriously fall out of your life.

But generally when you retire in a movie, there are two ways it can go: Either you die the day before retirement, or, if you actually survive that last day and make it out, you get pulled back in reluctantly a while later. And then the cycle starts again. So I guess that means it can only end one way.

And as soon as his wife is gone, he’s back to killing. Pretty much right away; he still has his shiva beard. What makes HIM the good guy? Because he’s on the dog’s side?

The Torah doesn’t really believe in revenge, and you need only to look at the movie to see why. Nothing is really accomplished. The dog doesn’t come back to life. And in fact, because of this whole path that John sets out on, his best friend is killed. John doesn’t even get to save him – he just tries to avenge that too. He never actually saves anyone or anything the entire movie. The only way anyone benefits from anything here is that there are now significantly fewer Russian mobsters in the world. But if movies have taught us anything, it’s that there will always be more Russian mobsters.

But at the end of the day, he got revenge for his dog, which is exactly what the dog would have wanted, right?

On the other hand, the mobsters are not great people either. For example, when the mob boss hears about what his son did, he’s livid. And not because John had once single-handedly put him into power and he feels bad that his son now messed up the guy’s life. He’s livid because he knows that John’s going to come after him. So he calls John, and rather than offering him an apology and maybe a fruit basket, he attempts to calm John down by explaining that it was just a dog. By downplaying John’ loss. That’ll work. His next move is to immediately put a contract on John’s head, so that even before John finishes getting dressed, people are trying to kill him. “My son killed your dog? I should probably kill you, no?” Instead of, I don’t know, using that money to make it up to him or something. Four million dollars can buy a really nice fruit basket.

Or maybe someone should have made an effort to find out why that dog was so important to John before downplaying it so much. You never know what someone else is going through. In fact, at some point, John says that the dog was helping him grieve for his wife. In Judaism, there’s a concept of shiva. You can’t be alone after losing someone like that – you need others then more than ever. He needed the dog, and as soon as he lost it, he started looking for other ways to handle his grief. Maybe it’s not the dog he’s avenging.

Did he kill in self defense? I don’t know, I’m not his rabbi.

So did he have an excuse? I don’t know. Some of the killing was in self defense. But I’m not his rabbi.

So if he’s into revenge, killing people for money, and working out his feelings through violence, why do we root for him? Probably because when it boils down to it, his reasons for killing the Russians are better than their reasons for killing him. It’s probably like when we have an election, and we have to vote for whichever candidate is less evil. Also, mathematically, it’s better for us to have the just the one hitman alive at the end of the movie than the whole Russian mob. I guess. Especially if this guy is going back to retirement. I think we’re rooting for retirement.

We also root for John because he has the potential to be better. All he needs is another dog. Whereas the Russians’ future is a kid who assaults random people and then hides behind his father for the rest of the movie.

The world of the movie is a modern day Sodom, where basically no one is good. But Lot was saved from Sodom, because deep down, he was a nice, hospitable guy who just happened to do bad things. If you do something wrong, it doesn’t mean you’re totally lost. You could still be a good guy. There could still be potential. And if not for Lot, there wouldn’t have been a King David.

Maybe the lesson is that you don’t have to be perfect to be a good guy. Even you, no offense, can be the hero of your own story.