John Wick (2014) Explained: What Are The Coins For?

This post includes a plot summary, a review and a detailed explanation about the universe of John Wick. What are the gold coins for? Why is John Wick called Baba Yaga? Beware of spoilers.

john wick explained

It’s official, Keanu Reeves is back. Well, he’s been active all these years (after Matrix) but none of his latest works were… memorable. However, things are about to change. As an action film enthusiast, I’m happy to say that John Wick does not disappoint. The actions sequences are great and the soundtrack is awesome!

John Wick (2014) – Plot Summary

After losing his wife to terminal illness, John Wick receives a final gift from his wife: a beagle. They bond instantly and he decides to take the puppy for a ride. At a gas station, John meets Iosef, a Russian gangster. He puts an offer to buy John’s car: a 1969 Ford Mustang. However, John refuses to sell it. Unhappy with his answer, Iosef and his gang follow John to his house. They break in, knock him unconscious, kill his dog and steal his car.

Iosef takes the Mustang to a chop shop. The owner of the place is Aurelio and he’s friends with John. He recognizes the car and punches Iosef out of anger. John visits Aurelio and learns that Iosef is Viggo’s son. Viggo is the head of Russian mafia in New York and John used to work for him. When he decided to “retire”, Viggo accepted his request under one condition: the completion of impossible task. The assignment included multiple killings, which John succeed at. Having said that, Viggo’s empire grew exponentially thanks to John’s efforts.

Viggo calls John but John refuses to talk. Therefore, Viggo sends a hit squad to John’s house. He kills them all. After this failed attempt, Viggo puts a bounty on John’s head and reaches to John’s friend Marcus for the job. He accepts. Meanwhile, John seeks refuge at The Continental, a hotel that caters exclusively to people from the criminal world.

John meets up with Winston (the hotel owner) who gives a him a clue about Iosef’s whereabouts. He heads to Red Circle and kills most of Iosef’s body guards but Iosef escapes. Injured, John heads back to the Continental to treat his wounds. Perkins, a fellow assassin sneaks into John’s room to kill him. Fortunately, Marcus sends John a signal and he was able to subdue Perkins. He forces Perkins to reveal the location of Viggo’s front and leaves her with Harry, another fellow assassin. Perkins breaks free and kills Harry.

John goes to the Little Russia’s Church (Viggo’s front) and burns everything inside it: money and blackmail material. When Viggo and his team arrive, they capture John. Marcus intervenes once more and John breaks free. He kills Viggo’s main bodyguard and then he chases after Viggo. He caves in and gives out Iosef’s location. John heads to the safehouse and kills him.

Marcus meets up with John and Perkins reports their encounter to Viggo. They ambush Marcus at his home and kill him. Perkins meets up with Winston, who has her executed.

Winston calls John to inform him about Viggo’s plan to escape. John chases after Viggo, kills his remaining team and wounds him fatally. He drives away and ends up hitting the car near an animal clinic. John breaks in, gets some medicine for his wounds and leaves with a Pitbull puppy.

The Universe Of John Wick Explained

john wick baba yaga
Why Is John Wick Called “Baba Yaga”?

According to the film, “Baba Yaga” means Boogeyman in Russian. However, John Wick is not the Boogeyman. He’s the one you “send” to kill the Boogeyman.

What Are The Gold Coins For?

In John Wick’s universe, assassins don’t use regular dollars they use gold coins to do business. They pay everything with these coins from hits to cleaning services.

What Is The Continental?

The Continental is a hotel that only caters to assassins. However, like every other organization, the Continental also has its own set or rules. For instance, residents cannot kill other residents. It’s fine if they do it outside, but inside of the hotel is absolute no-no.

Why Was Perkins Killed?

They killed Perkins because she broke the rules. There’s only one golden rule: guests cannot conduct their “businesses” at the hotel. Perkins disrespected the hotel when she tried to kill John in his room and when she killed Harry, another fellow assassin.

What Makes John Wick So Good?

The premise is very simple: it starts with a puppy and it ends with another puppy. Does the story make sense? That’s debatable. If someone kills your pet, are you really going to take down an entire gangster empire just to get some closure? Maybe not, but then again John Wick is not about coherence. Watching someone on a quest for revenge is entertainment at its best. John’s character is very unapologetic about his actions. They shouldn’t have killed that beagle, now someone needs to pay.

To be honest, I didn’t expect the film to be that good. However, I’m glad that I was wrong. As a spectator, I’m looking for pure entertainment and John Wick delivers in that department.

Some people say that Keanu Reeves cannot act, I have another take on this subject. Now that I’ve seen the “final product” I believe he was the perfect casting choice. Just take a closer look at the character: who is John Wick? He used to kill people for a living but now he has retired. Unfortunately, his wife has also passed making him a recent widow living a relatively quiet life. Having said that, who are we looking for?

First: someone that can play a professional killer and still have the audience rooting for him. Whether people like Keanu as an actor or not, he has that likeability factor working for him.

Second: he can’t be the stereotypical tough guy/badass like Denzel Washington. The “don’t mess with me” aura cannot be too evident.

Third: the actor playing John needs to physically fit for the part because he is going to kill a lot of thugs in the film.

Therefore, Keanu is the man for the job. Do not forget: he has Matrix under his belt. That really helps to cement his reputation in this type genre.

Final Thoughts

The film has a relatively “modest” budget compared to today’s Hollywood standards. However, that hasn’t affected its quality — good things come in small packages. The action sequences are amazing because they look very realistic. Finally, someone is bringing things back to basics! Keanu Reeves performed most of his stunts, which is not bad at all for a man of his age. I guess in his case, the 50s are the new 30s. Respect!

There wasn’t a single dull moment in the film. When the credits started to roll, I felt myself wanting more and this how I know I watched some good stuff. It’s probably too soon to say this, but I really hope they make a sequel out of it. I’m glad John Wick has made actions films cool again.