Tuesday, August 18, 2015

John Wick & David: The Guys You Send to Kill the Boogeyman

"You guys wouldn't have any
foreskins would you?
Thought not."
I saw John Wick last year in the theater, as a last minute, no preview, no hints, clueless moviegoer. I appreciate a good reason to shoot someone, but you gotta have a good reason. Reason satisfied, I have no problem watching a visceral, stylized action flick.

I loved it. Absolutely loved every minute of it.

John Wick not only delivered a good sharp revenge flick, it did it superbly, in a visually cool way with lots of panache. Each character has a bit of a comic book clarity feel about them and we recognize the mythical storytelling almost at once.

This is 'heightened reality'  - the way any story begins to look once it gets handed down to from generation to generation. It satisfies like a good Chicago hot dog and a cold beer satisfies on a July evening. It rocks like  Kashmir by Zeppelin rocks by being inimitably simple, direct and fearless. No apologies for what it is.. It's your hawt tatooed girlfriend who digs your comic and sitting with you at a con while you are signing autographs-level of cool. It is what we dream of as men when we wish we could kill someone who really, desperately deserves it -- and even God would say, "I crafted you for this purpose--aim well, and get it done."

It is Old Testament-level of justice, when frankly, it HAD to be done by men who feared God and no one else. I mean, no one else.

You see it in King David, before he became king, in fact.

You should already know the way he took on Goliath when he was just a youth [prolly about 15 or so]. One shot, and Goliath went down. Then David took Goliath's own sword and cut his head off.

You usually don't see that in the Sunday school lessons. Suburban families freak out over that stuff. [For fun, try to imagine doing Samson, getting up from sleeping with a prostitute before tearing the city gates off their hinges...]

We tend to gloss over certain parts of the Bible. It is a mistake. God wants to tame us, not emasculate us. And here's where John Wick and David meet: both are men of will and of dedication, and baby, no one anywhere wants to meet them in battle.

There's this line in John Wick where Viggo, the Father and head of the Russian Mob is trying to explain to his son that the boy has made a terrible mistake in beating and robbing John Wick - and [spoiler - won't tell].

Son: What? That f------- nobody?

Father: That f------- nobody is John Wick. He once was an associate of ours. They call him Baba Yaga. [Russian fairy tale witch woman, i.e. "the bogeyman"]

Son: The bogeyman?

Father [patiently, with growing intenisty]: Well, John wasn't exactly the Boogeyman, he was the one you send to kill the f------- Boogeyman.

Son [realizes]: ..oh...

Father [cont]: John is a man of focus, commitment and sheer will. I once saw him kill three men in a bar, with a pencil. With a f------- pencil. [makes stabbing motion in air]

Suddenly, one day, he asked to leave. Over a woman, of course. So I made a deal with him: I gave him an impossible task, a job no one could have pulled off.

The bodies he buried that day lay the foundation of what we are now. And then my son, a few days after his wife died, you steal his car and kill his f------- dog.
Not good, right? Right.

You've heard this type of story before, what I'll call the "Echo of Myth" - and when I say myth I mean sacred stories that become mythical, not just fiction. I mean historical events that kick so much tale that we humans have GOT to repeat it to every generation, even if we lose details.

John Wick is a beautiful echo of a great story. That is why it resonates.

It is an echo of King Saul and David's broken relationship. A powerful man who is delivered from his enemies by the diligent work of a subordinate. A guy so skilled that he outdoes all human expectations. Like Salieri before Mozart, he finds himself in the shadow of a man better than himself but lower than him on the social scale. A student who is, honestly, the better of his teacher.

Viggo runs the Russian mob. You don't get there by being nice. But John terrifies him. He sent him to wipe out his enemies--and John did it [for love, of course]. Now HE is John's enemy. It is bad. It is way, way bad and there is no way out.

Now read the following verses. It's when Saul wanted to keep David from being a threat to him, so he too sets up "an impossible task" i.e. to get the foreskins of 100 Philistines. [Proof they are dead, folks. Stop saying "Ewww."]

1 Samuel 18:20-30
20 Now Saul's daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. 21 Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law.” 22 And Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David in private and say, ‘Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now then become the king's son-in-law.’” 23 And Saul's servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king's son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?” 24 And the servants of Saul told him, “Thus and so did David speak.”

25 
Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king's enemies.’” Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.
26 And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king's son-in-law.

Before the time had expired,
27 David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king's son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife. 28 But when Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul's daughter, loved him, 29 Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David's enemy continually.
30 Then the commanders of the Philistines came out to battle, and as often as they came out David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed.

So next time you find yourself getting all excited about some bad-a$$ - keep in mind that 3,000 years ago, it was David--a man after God's own heart--who was one of the first.

Go rent John Wick. You'll not be disappointed, I guarantee it.

Amen.

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