THE John Wick The franchise is a hit with audiences in large part because of its “back to basics” approach to action movies: just showing fans of the genre cool ways to hit and shoot bad guys and repeat. However, there’s nothing fundamental about the complex world-building that underpins all the fighting and gunfights. The gritty world of John Wick is so complex it even has its own economy – an economy that runs on gold coins that are often worth more than real gold in this secret society of tattooed, black-suited assassins and armed.
As we prepare for John Wick: Chapter 4 in theaters next month, and with the first three films in the franchise available to stream on Peacockhere’s a deep dive into how John Wick’s criminal underbelly currency works – and what’s going on with all those gold coins.
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No, seriously: what’s going on with those gold coins? In 2014 John Wickwhat the public thought was right Keanu Reeves‘ version of death wish – centered around a mysterious assassin with a skill set that would make Taken‘s Liam Neeson blush – turned out to be an action movie with its own mythos when these pieces appeared. John Wick and its sequels lift the curtain on that mythology, revealing that this dark world of well-armed crime syndicates and enforcers is an international agency that uses these coins as both fiscal and ethical currency within their profession. Everyone from hitmen to hotel concierges to doctors — even the poor (but creepy) guys tasked with disposing of bodies — are apparently only paid with these special coins instead of real money. .
The gold coins of this culture allow these merchants and others to acquire goods and services. Want a hotel room for the night to escape the trigger-happy, vaguely European murderers following you? It will be a gold coin, please. Looking to upgrade your arsenal with one grenade launcher or six? *Place a richly decorated gold coin here.*
More importantly, these coins exceed the value of the physical items they purchase, as they act as a toll that one pays to travel through and among this secret society with their honor and security intact. Paying with these coins provides a sense of security because even killers have a “code of conduct”…and those who are part of John Wick’s job are mostly strict adherents.
This membership stems from the fact that (as we learn in John Wick: Chapter 2) the hotel network used by John and his fellow assassins, The Continental, is Wickbucks’ main banking center. Killing of any kind on the mainland is verboten and punishable by death and/or being “excommunicated” from all services and protections granted to this underworld of gun-fu enthusiasts.
The Continental Hotel Network is also equal parts ATM and customs for assassins passing through and between missions. It is responsible for keeping coins (and those who spend them) in circulation. And who is responsible for the Continental and the governance of this world? They are known as the High Table, which the filmmakers described as a governing body older and larger than any in history, which is why it operates above the law and under no jurisdiction but the his. The High Table seems to have established the one-to-one transaction rules for currency, as everything in the Continental costs a single coin.
Whether it’s a drink at the bar or asking a doctor to bandage your wounds, it can all be yours for the price of gold in your bespoke pockets. But why do a variety of goods and services cost the same amount? How does this benefit this mysterious cabal?
Again, officers and staff are paying for the privilege of a code of conduct that they cannot get anywhere else. This practice is invaluable and worth more than any monetary amount, but value is signified in the transaction of gold coins. Real money – digital or otherwise – has no real meaning or value for this subculture, except that it provides oxygen to the very dangers the organization has spent centuries fighting. isolate themselves.
With stacks of money comes risk and the invitation of vice. (Which, when your clientele is mostly deadly and dangerous assassins-for-hire, one can’t be too careful with their secret society statutes.) take at face value.
That’s why this economy full of hitmen and deadly mercenaries, who communicate their contracts through an ancient network of switchboard operators, relies on their special coins. Because they offer what silver briefcases full of dough cannot: trust, honor and loyalty. The coin and the people on either side of its transaction indicate that you and everyone you represent are in good hands. That the security and integrity one seeks from the High Table as an institution will be found – as long as one adheres to the company’s entire policy of “do not kill where you eat”.
With this philosophy in mind, the rules of John Wick cultivation become clearer. Why does a gun cost as much as a drink? Or a favour? Because in this world, those things are only worth what the buyer brings to the table. And what they bring is all they are, symbolized in the form of a coin.
But there are still more fuzzy aspects in High Table Economics 101. For example: the value of the contract that is placed on the head of John Wick is in US dollars. This strongly implies that the currency of our world has some weight in it. Maybe gold coins can be exchanged for real, collapsible money? (We don’t even want to try to figure out the exchange rate there.) We know from John’s time in civilian life that he and his late wife bought gas and groceries. (We see John do the former in his debut movie.) Surely he and his peers have access to American money, because good luck trying to pay for Double Stuf OREOs at Safeway with gold murder tokens!
Coins can also signify a guarantee for more intangible things, like when someone asks for a favor or favor. When John seeks medical attention from a doctor in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, with only an hour on the clock before he is officially excommunicated, he does so by offering a coin to the doc. In this case, the coin is used as a sort of token or blood marker. The doctor can’t or won’t break his code by refusing to accept the play John implores on him. So even when you’re at risk of being kicked out, the High Table’s code of honor extends until your last second is up.
As dangerous as the shadowy world of John Wick is, its population of expertly trained snipers and killers ensure its survival by upholding its code of conduct. One gold coin at a time.
John Wick: Chapter 4 hits theaters on March 24.
Can’t wait until then? Find the first three films of the John Wick franchise, all streaming on Peacock.