The average action movie villain has the self-preservation instincts of an extremely drunk moth. The genre wouldn't exist otherwise. We need henchmen who will continue shooting Superman even after the previous 10,000 rounds failed to scratch him. ("But what if I try throwing the gun?!?") We need masterminds who insist on capturing Bond instead of killing him. Still, the bad guys in the John Wick universe really do seem desperate to die.
We're not even talking about the rank-and-file goons who, in a fit of despair, apparently had bullet magnets surgically inserted into their craniums. We're talking about the guys at the top, the ones who freely speak among themselves of the super-assassin who has killed literally thousands of people (he kills over 200 people on-screen after he retires!), yet appear almost eager to join the pile of Wick-shot corpses which presumably lies at the bottom of the Hudson River.
This is why crime boss Santino D'Antonio is the final example in our weeklong series on questionable villains, which we're calling "Wait, What Was Their Plan Again?"
Rule #1: Don't Hire John Wick -- Or Interact With Him For Any Reason, Really
The entire premise of these films is that John Wick is magically good at shooting people. He's what Neo must have looked like to anyone experiencing time at normal speed.
The first film is fairly reasonable in its setup. It follows Wick after his retirement, when the punk-ass son of a Russian mobster, not realizing Wick is a superhuman killing machine, steals his car and (worse) murders his adorable puppy dog. It's portrayed as a foolish, lethal mistake, and sure enough, Wick kills pretty much every single person in the mobster's organization in response. Then he finds a new dog and goes back home.
At the beginning of John Wick 2: The John Awickens, the man is all set to retire ... again. Fortunately for Keanu Reeves and Lionsgate Entertainment Corporation, Wick is yanked out of retirement like a murderous Brett Favre due to a prior professional obligation. Mere hours after the events of the first film, foreign-sounding bad guy Santino D'Antonio presents Wick with a "Marker" -- basically a pinky promise shaped like a coin -- and demands Wick repay his debts by murdering D'Antonio's sister for him (he wants to take her seat in the big international crime syndicate).
Wick is still more than a bit torn up about the deaths of his wife and dog, so he refuses, at which point D'Antonio gives him some "motivation" by way of rocket grenade through the window. After his house turns into a ball of fire, Wick has no choice but to accept D'Antonio's contract on pain of death.
Wick spends several days preparing for the "impossible" assassination (he insists it can't be done), only to discover that the sister (Gianna) is totally willing to slash her own wrists as soon as he confronts her. He barely faces any resistance the entire mission; he kind of just walks in, at which point Gianna realizes that doing it herself is the best possible outcome. Another job well-done, Wick! At this point, he's probably bummed he blew so much money on a bulletproof dinner jacket and multiple weeks of doggy day care.
Then, all of a sudden, boom! Wick is attacked by several dozen of Santino's goons attempting to "tie up loose ends." Here is where things go from your typical everyday Italian mafia sororicide to self-flagellating stupidity. D'Antonio has sent assassins after his own assassin to assassinate him after the assassination he himself ordered. You know, in case Wick was planning to post about the murder on his Tumblr or something?
Now, it can be argued that the "loose end" was his fear that Wick would seek revenge on D'Antonio for blowing up his home and all his possessions. We can't say that isn't an accurate reading of the situation. After all, this is the guy who murdered exactly 77 people over his dead dog one movie earlier. But it feels like maybe, just maybe, things never needed to go that far.
Wait, What Was His Plan Again?
Let's examine the thought process that led to D'Antonio hiring Wick in the first place. If he thinks the only way to kill his sister is with the deadliest assassin alive (who's about 12 hours removed from murdering every Russian in the city), then what makes him think he'll be able to betray him successfully? Because he thinks his own people are even deadlier? Then why not send them? As we mentioned, infiltrating Gianna's headquarters and killing her turns out to be super easy. A massive contingent of D'Antonio's own men penetrate almost as far as Wick does, but only so they can kill Wick (they don't even wait until Wick leaves the premises -- they jump him a few dozen yards from where Gianna's body lies cooling in a literal blood bath).
If there was some reason he needed a third party to do it, surely D'Antonio could find some assassin in that crazy universe bursting at the balls with for-hire assassins (it seems to be an entirely murder-based economy) who can be trusted to do the job without needing to be murdered afterward. He has the money for it -- we know, because later in the movie, he spends $7 million to place a bounty on Wick's head. (Spoiler: It doesn't work.)
There May Be Some Sexism In The Crime Syndicate's Project Assignments
You know who should be the most upset about all of this (aside from the thousands of grieving friends and family of the 128 henchmen John Wick kills)? This woman:
That's Ares, Santino D'Antonio's mute bodyguard who, as we see over the course of the movie, is almost as skilled as Wick. If D'Antonio had simply sent her to kill his sister instead, he wouldn't have pissed off the man who, predictably, doesn't stop head-shooting mooks until Santino joins his sister in the afterlife. Instead, his plan is to A) hire Wick, B) do it in a way that pisses him off, and then C) instruct Ares to kill Wick. According to the transitive property, this means D'Antonio fully believes Ares is capable of doing the original job, but he decided to outsource it to Wick for reasons that surely would not hold up had Ares complained to their HR department.
The only possible excuse would be ignorance of Wick's reputation, but we know that's not the case. At the beginning of the movie, Wick destroys an entirely different criminal empire for stealing his car. In fact, that's what causes D'Antonio to go to him! The whole enterprise has to go down as the greatest lack of pattern recognition since Kim Kardashian's third marriage.
As of this writing, they are making a third John Wick film, in which it seems all of the city's many assassins decide to go after Wick in exchange for a hefty payday. Hmmm, we wonder how that will turn out? But they will keep trying, as will all action movie villains, because they do not realize that they are fictional characters destined only to die spectacularly for our entertainment.
Make sure to check out the rest of the series:
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Bawitdaba, pass the green beans.
It's hard out there for millionaire purveyors of garbage pizza.